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Paperback Details
  • 10/2021
  • 978-1733308687 1733308687
  • 124 pages
  • $17.95
Sparks and Disperses
The poems in Cathleen Cohen’s Sparks and Disperses reckon with contemporary life through the perspective of visual artists. Drawing on an ancient Kabbalistic myth of the “shattering of vessels,” Cohen explores issues of fracture, healing, and creation; the challenges of poverty, isolation, and the pandemic; and how we can find meaning and joy through artmaking. By building a poetic mural made of cracked ceramics, household items, and glass shards, Cohen promotes healing through continuity and hope.
Reviews
“We may grasp / fragments / that fall into our hands,” artist and poet Cohen (Etching the Ghost) writes at the start of “When We Enter the Story,” the poem that kicks off this accomplished collection. The poem goes on to address the temptation to overwork the “countless bits / swirling around us” as we shape them into art: Cohen sees “no need / to solder them together with gold” because “They already glitter.” This powerful idea exemplifies the poems that follow, which find the poet contemplating and celebrating the process of the creation of art inspired by—or in collaboration with--the world around us. “Ritual” centers on the idea of attaching “sticks of roasted willow” to one’s feet and leaving “bright filaments” where one has passed, while “Color Wheel,” “Painting with Family,” “Space,” “Exhibition” and others directly concern the practicalities of art-making, from mixing colors to accepting the inevitability that art will be contemplated by “souls // I haven’t reckoned with.”

With crisp lines, precise yet vibrant language, and rare communicative power, Cohen--the founder of the We the Poets outreach program at the nonprofit ArtWell--invites readers in, exhibiting a light, welcoming touch throughout. The lively “Red Flags” likens the Spotted Lanternfly to “winged bits of red / cellophane, undiluted traffic lights,” two ways of seeing the invasive insect that will stick with anyone who reads them, while poems about children mine universal feeling from sharply rendered specifics: “The Children Sequester Themselves” concerns kids’ eagerness to hide in play castles or forts, like their parents once did, a tendency that reveals “all of us, desirous // of any dark space to launch into.”

Cohen’s work is uncommonly accessible in form and language yet rich in potential meanings and ambiguities. She resists the urge to gild or burden the glittering bits that she collects from the world around her. Instead she catches them, examines them, commemorates them for the rest of us, and lets them go.

Takeaway: An inviting, incisive collection of poems about making art and finding meaning in the swirl of life.

Great for fans of: Jane Hirschfield, Tess Taylor.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Formats
Paperback Details
  • 10/2021
  • 978-1733308687 1733308687
  • 124 pages
  • $17.95

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