Gregory M. Cook, Love in Flight
Charlottetown: Ragweed, 1985. 87 pp.
Review by Stephen Morrissey
Poetry Canada Review, vol. 7, no. 4
Gregory M. Cook's Love in Flight had its conception when his father died in battle in Holland in 1944. This book is the record of Cook's "pilgrimage to his father's grave in a Canadian War Cemetery." One would expect that this subject would elicit poems of great intensity, passion and strong emotions, but such is not the case in this collection of poems. Although the work is competently written, most of the poems fail to grasp the reader's attention or emotions or to offer, until the final section of the book, any illumination into the nature of human existence. An exception to this is the poem "Stranger" in which Cook writes:
There was the avoidance of your name
unless needed to resolve an argument
between survivors lacking a principle of peace
Many photographs of you were taken
as if you were marked to disappear
A gold star placed beside your name in church
A headstone at home marks an almost empty grave
The town monument: a metal soldier stands
over your name cut in stone with the boys you knew
I remember those days as a child
with memorials, without you
imagining you were alive
This is good, straight-forward, straight-speaking poetry. We can all understand it, and after reading it we know we have experienced an emotion that may have changed us a little. But when Cook writes:
The flight to the silent centre
has created a dangerous politics of love
are drunk on a mysterious green leaf
and a romance with the animal kingdom
is he being clever, or are we expected to decipher his words? Most of us could make something of these lines, but in the context of the rest of the poem they have little importance. Indeed, the rest of the poem is good, but this bit tacked on to the beginning should have been edited out.
Elsewhere in Love in Flight Cook juxtaposes simple comments written over forty years ago by his great grandfather beside his own poetic commentary. In another poem he turns excerpts of his father's letters, written after he has enlisted, into found poems. The father, like the great grandfather, comes across as a simple direct person.
Gregory M. Cook knows how to write, but too often this ability gets in the way of what he may have to say. This is evident in the six page "Pinocchio Presides: A Fable for our Time," which might easily have been reduced to one half or less of its length. Five pages are lost to "Questions on Notes from De Juri Belli ac Pacs, Hugh de Groote (Grotius), 1946." In both of these poems the words maunder on without much substance or point. Too often we are given something that sounds like poetry but it is empty of meaning and genuine emotion.
Love in Flight needs a lot of editing and rewriting and perhaps Cook would then have a book of poetry that would touch people's hearts, make them see the insanity of war, and do something to end war. Had this book been the work of an amateur, a young person just learning how to write, one might excuse the lack of substance that one finds here, but Cook has previously published two other books of poetry. Considering the topic of war and Cook's intimate relationship with the subject, the loss of his father, the desire to prevent another war, I wonder why more depth, urgency and conviction isn't evident in this book.
Copyright © 2007 The author