In the title poem to Sicilian Elephants, his most wide-ranging and ambitious collection to date, David Cooke imagines the short-lived paradise achieved by those miniature elephants whose bones have been found on the island. In poems gathered here he explores notions of home and the way humans aspire to define their space and achieve a life of ease.
Starting out from familiar domestic settings, he explores the rituals of DIY and gardening. However, the inevitable tensions between us and our environment and the ways that human achievement is subject to time are further explored in new and startling situations as when in a poem about heaven, the quest for a spiritual homeland is set against territorial conflict. With Sicilian Elephants, in words from the Poetry Book Society Bulletin: ‘Cooke’s lyrical insight and precision make the personal universal.’
‘Sicilian Elephants would already have been a thought-provoking book even prior to Brexit. Nevertheless, it now becomes especially significant as a reflection on who we are. David Cooke’s collection brings us closer to Europe: it’s poetry for our times.’ — Matthew Stewart, Rogue Strands
‘Do our aimless activities take us to something real and meaningful? Is there a place where we can feel at home? Time passes and the space we might call home becomes more and more elusive. A sense of an unassuming quest in a quotidian context, which nevertheless becomes universal, pervades the collection’ — Carla Scarano, London Grip
‘Literary references and historical figures set against a background of travel and personal quest link these wide-ranging poems together. Taken as a whole, they make for a very satisfying read.’ — Neil Leadbeater, Write Out Loud
From reviews of David Cooke’s earlier collections:
‘Cooke’s sensibility is European in a way unusual for an English language poet. There is a fine sensuousness in the language … a book of unexpected, quiet pleasures.’
—Catriona O’Reilly, Poetry Salzburg Review
‘He has an innate poetic ability to stud the everyday, the unpretentious, with telling little details, perfectly nuanced turns of phrase, that cumulatively vouchsafe the collection’s ability to linger in the reader’s mind.’
—Neil Fulwood, London Grip
David Cooke. Paperback, 72 pages, 210 x 135 mm, October 2021.
David Cooke was born in Wokingham, although his family comes from the West of Ireland. In 1977, while still an undergraduate at Nottingham University, he won a Gregory Award and since then his poems and reviews have appeared in many journals in the UK, Ireland and beyond. He has published seven collections, including A Murmuration (Two Rivers Press, 2015) and Staring at a Hoopoe (Dempsey and Windle, 2020). Founder and editor of the online poetry journal The High Window, he is married with four grown-up children and was for many years the Head of Modern Languages at a large comprehensive school in Cleethorpes. He is now happily retired and lives in Swindon.
David Cooke reads two poems from Sicilian Elephants, both on Gaudi — ‘Architecture’ and ‘Casa Batlló’ — in this video produced by Dominic James:
Also by David Cooke: A Murmuration
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