Love in Flight
Martin Singleton was a poet living in Toronto.
This is Cook’s third book, based on his 1983 journey to Holland to visit the scene of his father’s wartime death. This is rich material in itself, let alone bolstered by numerous quotations, dedications, and a variety of visual presentations: in descending order of quality a Colville cover, a map of the invasion area, and a plethora of family snapshots. Unfortunately, most of the writing falls leagues short of the potential such material might evoke. Theme is a persistent sentimentality (“you were the warmest, wisest / woman of all history speaking at once”) that is at best irritating, at worst ludicrous (“our tears are dyked with love”). The diction is often vague and flat (“you went about your daily chores / defined by the season and weather”). Often too syntax is strained, as when Cook picks flowers: “a devil’s orange paintbrush and a wish / counter to the new arms poised, for my mother.” Most offensive, on both aesthetic and philosophical grounds, is “Pinnochio Presides: A Fable for our Time,” in which soporific lists of twentieth-century artifacts alternate with italicized statements like “imitators allow war / they see neither themselves or anyone.” Yet sometimes the sloppiness and philosophical naiveté give way to something close to real poetry, as in the rhythm and repetition of “The Meadow,” the rich imagery and controlled emotion of “Through Night Mist,” or the terse terror of ‘The Icons.” When not caught up in rhetoric or bathos, Cook writes well. Sadly, this happens all too seldom.