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Radiance [Paperback]

By Barbara Crooker (Author)
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Item description for Radiance by Barbara Crooker...

Radiance by Barbara Crooker

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Item Specifications...

Pages   88
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 6" Height: 0.24"
Weight:   0.32 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2005
Publisher   WordTech Communications
ISBN  1932339914  
ISBN13  9781932339918  

Availability  55 units.
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More About Barbara Crooker

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Barbara Crooker was born in Cold Spring, New York, in 1945, but currently resides in Fogelsville, Pennsylvania. She began writing poetry in the late 1970s. Her poetry, for which she has won many awards, incorporates themes of nature, home, family, love, loss, and disability. Her poems have been published in anthologies and magazines, as well as compiled in several chapbooks and books include Radiance, Line Dance and ten chapbooks.

Barbara Crooker was born in 1945.

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Reviews - What do customers think about Radiance?

A beautiful collection  Aug 15, 2008
Barbara Crooker's RADIANCE is aptly titled and captures her joy and wonder in all that surrounds her and us. As I read this collection, I flagged pages of favorite poems until I realized I was marking nearly every page. These well-crafted poems are playful and touching, a glimpse at not only one poet's desire for MORE of life's riches, but also an awareness of love and living's ephemeral nature. Crooker is a wordsmith with fresh phrases that recall her youth in the fifties and sixties -- and the youth of her peers. She is candid about the frustrations of raising an autistic son, with descriptions of his discomfort as well as his love for all things "perforated: toilet paper, graham crackers, coupons/ in magazines loves the order of the tiny holes,/ the way the boundaries are defined." She questions, "if I've done enough to deserve this life/ I've been given. A pile of sorrow, yes, but joy/ enough to balance the equation."

With these beautiful poems, she shows us she is more than deserving of our praise.

For other poets, this book is charming as well as instructive. If you're new to poetry or have been afraid to trudge through the sometimes-rocky terrain of contemporary poems, you'll be very glad you took your first steps here.
Achieving Radiance  Feb 26, 2008
This Book Review was published in Summer 2007 PRAIRIE SCHOONER
Winner of the Word Press First Book Prize
Word Press, P.O. Box 541106, Cincinnati, Ohio 45254-1106

The three-plus pages of single-spaced acknowledgments attest to the fact that Barbara Crooker is one of the best poets you've been able to read only every now and then. Writing her entire adult life and now a grandmother, this is her very first full-length collection of poems; a fact to give all poets pause, even as one splashes into the lightstream of finally being able to read this perfect book.
Like the Impressionists Crooker daubs into the lyrics and onto the palette of her poems
...these iris rise
writhe, charmed like snakes by the song of the sun.
The wild blue heart of longing moves up, up,
from papery rhizomes...
["Iris, 1889"]

she has proceeded without standard imprimatur and brouhaha. Like the Impressionists, too, Crooker has succeeded. With a minim here, a tittle there, an iota virtually everywhere, she's been nominated for seventeen Pushcart Prizes; she is the author of ten chapbooks and more than four hundred fifty published poems; she has had ten residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; Stanley Kunitz judged the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred competition which she won; and for her terrific, wit-whipped poem, "Nearing Menopause, I Run Into Elvis at Shoprite," and read by Alfre Woodard on the 1997 audio collection, Grow Old Along With Me --The Best is Yet to Be, she was nominated for a Grammy.
RADIANCE, divided into six parts, opens with "All That Is Glorious Around Us" and closes with "Poem Ending with a Line by Rumi," establishing a frame of the "grand vistas, sublime peaks, mist-filled overlooks, and towering clouds" of the luminous paintings referenced by the poem's title and the Thomas Worthington Whittredge oil painting, "Kaaterskill Falls," reproduced on this book's cover. Immediately, Crooker tells us that "everything is glorious around us" including "doing errands on a day of driving rain". Full of journeying water, red and gold leaves, rocky escarpment, panoramic landscape, the "glories of breath" and how her mother struggles to breathe, this poem causes us to notice "small rainbows of oil on the pavement" in juxtaposition with the oil paintings of The Hudson River School of art.
"There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground" is Rumi's line of poetry with which Crooker closes the book. Everything here, too, is "glorious around us". The line before Rumi's, one of Crooker's, leaves us in the hushed and tawny silence of a late autumn, " deep, the only sound, leaf falling on leaf".
In this volume of 84 pages/50 poems Crooker re-constitutes Aix-en-Provence, Paris, Shoprite, and a grammar lesson; she pegs wash onto a line, calls hawks from the sky, blazes iris, peonies, and sunflowers to life, gives us the Shozui temple, lilacs, licks of desire, red and blue, the gyre, Deconstructionism, a comet and an opossum.
In "The Comet and the Opossum" Crooker, out at night, momentarily balances on transience, like a tightrope walker teetering on a highwire timeline, seeing light from a 20,000 years ago comet even as she notices the familiar backyard opossum diminish to bones alone, bones which might still be where she is now 20,ooo years hence.
Last night, looking up at the inky blackness, I felt myself
shrink, smaller than the smallest bones in the opossum's tail,
and then I found the comet one last time...

When into words she forms her son's autism, her friend's cancer, or any of the other galvanic, tearing, breaking things of life, she isn't confessional or asking for pity, she's creating `the made thing'. In a 2005 interview, she says, "I don't look at writing as a form of self-expression, but rather, the love of the made thing, like a hand-thrown bowl or oil on canvas. I try to do what William Stafford said,"I have woven a parachute out of everything broken".
This is all there is: the red cherries, the green leaves,
sky like a pale silk dress, and the rise and fall
of the sweet breeze. Sometimes, just what you have
manages to be enough.

This poet explores, as do few others, generating love again and again within an old love, a long-nurtured love.
Two stubborn people, dulled into habit
stuck in the old sock of marriage, might just fall in love again

..Often, I slip a hand under
your body to anchor myself to this earth... ["Away in Virginia..."]

"Tangled up in love, running out of time," Crooker writes:
...Our children almost grown,
our parents gone, it happened so fast. Each day we must learn
again how to love, between morning's quick coffee
and evening's slow return...
["In the Middle"]

Indeed, in "Irrational Numbers" it's as if the mathematics of the couple is solved and resolved by neither want nor longing nor desire, but, instead, because they are elemental as color and day, and geometry, "...the angle/ of intersection, where we come together..."
In RADIANCE we learn, too, what Crooker was doing the day Jerry Garcia died, how corn grows, the nature of happiness and crows, the landscapes of motherhood, growing food, and the infinite. Whether her subject is politics or maternal grief, Crooker is neither troubled nor neurotic. The cyclical, non-idealized world is her home and she belongs to it, it to her. She knows how this mysterious as-is world works through her work, some of which is finally in one place together, and which we are finally privy to, thanks to RADIANCE.
They speak in tongues; whole glossolalia rolls
out of their beaks. Their song is unmusical, industrial,
like a wrench on metal. They rise in a dark river,
fly past the redbuds next to the cherries, a small stream
of violets underneath...
["Quiscalus, Quiscula"]

In this poem, too, she tells us to "Love whatever you can," and that "night is always bearing down". She is a wizard of unsentimental passion!
And, Crooker brandishes a lucid sense of humor --rooted and witty-- along with her other knowing, going senses. In "Twenty-five Years of Rejection Slips" Crooker plumbs the familiar writers' abyss of sending out work to editors hoping to get one's poems Out There and into the Grand Conversation of literary publication chatter, but, instead, usually facing "the great steamroller of indifference," mailboxes empty of acceptance letters; the learning to be content with "...the hot buzz of the cicadas' applause".

...Look at the stanzas
of light in the locust leaves as they bob and weave
in the hot July wind, their effortless green repetition
and refrain. Why not give it up now?

What, she asks rhetorically, does it matter if she reads her work only to the "cardinals and wrens" !
But, she is writing this poem, after all, because most days are her poem's "tomorrow" when "...a clean sheet comes up/in the roller, and we[`ll] start all over again".
Onto that clean sheet in the typewriter's roller, Crooker presses the materials of her art, such as using the sonnet form and the line break in fresh ways.
For instance, the first eight lines of Crooker's blank verse, iambic pentameter sonnet, "Some October," asks someone (and not God), if the `Me' of the poem has done enough "to deserve this life," if she's "made a difference," then turns to "today," "the wind pour[ing] out of Canada," the equation of joy unbalancing sorrow, even at the end of the green seasons, in October. We, too, are drawn into Crooker's copper woods and into the blue sky to see the "...twilight, when the clouds stream from the west/ like the breath of God..." When and because the meter is broken in the "little song's" envoi, we ask ourselves the questions she asks her Someone to ask her again during that "some twilight," and we wonder then what else besides the meter is broken.
In "Star of Wonder, Star of Light," it's a particular choice of line break which unhinges us. Coming out of "the accident" in the first line of the poem, that accident unexplained before or after the mention, her line break in the second line leaves "My husband and children [are] hanging".
In the third line we see that they are hanging...lights on a Christmas tree. But she has jangled our nerves with, first, that unexplained "accident" and then, with that minor chord "hanging family" all swaddled in what could otherwise seem to be a typical happy family scene. After all, she begins the poem, "It's Christmas..." --so informal and signaling happiness that one could insert a perky "hey," but no:
Shadows gather behind the hills. The tree turns dark green,
then black...

Or maybe yes. Here's how the poem concludes:
husband, son, and daughter in a circle around the tree,
their arms full of stars.

Crooker is both student and author of movement and gesture, creating the spontaneity and pith of real life. Her dimensional impressions tether life as much as is possible, sometimes foreshortening time in order to paint a whirling candid music sans mythology. With the best of them, she captures fleeting inner voices of light and color. One might say of Crooker as Andre Mellerio said of Cezanne, "One might say that Cezanne wishes to restore intact to each object...its true and essential radiance".
For pure bravura sparkle-and-spangle sumptuousness infused with the pulse and fire of everyone's love of all things chlorophyllic, from Hildegarde von Bingen's "green finger of God" to Dylan Thomas' "green fuse," Crooker praises "what comes from the dirt" in "Vegetable Love," her litany of color, taste, sound, scent, palpable sensation of roundness, pull and sink of roots, the "cool jade ruffles" of lettuces, and that "dark blood of the earth," beets...
And basil, sweet basil, nuzzled
by fumbling bees drunk on the sun.

Crooker accomplishes what poetry can accomplish --creating the dimensional from the flat, light from black type on white paper, real life from the raw; juggling the hit-or-miss music of life.

In "evening's violet cashmere" in "In Aix-en-Provence"
...Where breakfast is a flaky
roll that shatters when I bite it, that sings like the sun
in my mouth. Where lunch is a ripe pear...

she says that:
...On the last day of my life, I'd like
to be working, like Cezanne, even if it means being pulled home
in a laundry cart and dying of pneumonia. I want to be out there,

Of the dozen or so writers I need to read, Barbara Crooker is foremost among them. Each element of a radiant, achieving life is present in this bright, working book, these poems which illuminate all at once life's layered and complex realities. Glorious. Radiant. RADIANCE is a book which poets and non-poets will be buying for, and reading to, each other for years to come. Thinking of Alicia Ostriker, I tell you that one can read RADIANCE by the light of the poems themselves.
Barbara Crooker's Radiance, Lesson in Writing  Oct 6, 2005

When people in my workshops ask me how to improve their poetry, I tell them to read poems by good poets. Those who read Barbara Crooker's new anthology "Radiance," winner of the Word Press First Book Prize, are in for both a treat and a lesson in writing.
As I read her poems cover to cover, I enjoyed old favorites and discovered new ones.
If you ask yourself why you continue writing poems, consider Barbara's response in "Sunflowers":

When we're gone, what will be left of our small
songs and minor joys? Still, when I drive by a wheat field
turning ochre and amber, every awn and arista shouting sun!
` sun! sun! something in me rises, makes me look
for a scrap of paper, a pencil nub,
even as the hot wind lifts,
blows the dust we are, carries it away.

Notice that Barbara uses words which make us see in a fresh way.
Have we ever looked closely at our world so that we notice the awns[italicize , or bristles, on each head of wheat?
Those of us who have submitted our poetry for publication can
relate to her poem "Twenty-five Years of Rejection Slips." The speaker
How many trees have been pulped
for this constant susurrus: sending, resending,
shuffling, sorting?
Even the name submission [italicize] suggests a certain deference,
servility, prostration: lying down in front of the mailbox,
and letting the great steamroller of indifference flatten
me into the ground.

Have you ever mailed a rustling, or susurrus [italicize], of papers to an editor?
Have you been flattened by the steamroller of rejection?

In her poems, Barbara celebrates the world in which we live.
Her exuberance is evident in the title poem "All That Is Glorious Around Us."
She celebrates ordinary things and people:
RADIANCE: Poems by Barbara Crooker  Sep 22, 2005
This lovely new collection of poems by Barbara Crooker is a treasure. True to its title, the book, and each poem in it, shines from within. There is a sense of the sacred in this volume, and, as the author explores such varied themes as art history, travel, caring for an autistic child, aging and illness, and love in a long-term relationship, we feel her steadfast searching for God in the darkness. At the same time, this spiritual seeking is wedded to gentle humor and a down-to-earth look at ordinary things like eating corn on the cob, watching the slow decay of a dead opossum, or pinning wash on the line. Regardless of subject, each poem is delivered in lush, lyrical language rich with sensory images. And while Crooker's work is accessible, this collection is not simplistic. There is mystery here and a pleasing complexity in the delicate layers of her poems. RADIANCE, winner of the Word Press First Book Prize, is surely a light in the darkness.
A collection that sparkles and sings  Sep 7, 2005
Here's a first collection that could pass for a tenth collection. There's no stumbling here, no weak poems used as filler. It's one gem of a poem after another. Crooker's range of topics is wide: family, sewing, birds, the things of this earth, France, paintings, animals, Elvis. The range of moods is also wide. Dark shadows pass through the collection: the sorrows of a disabled child, an elderly mother coping with health problems, a world sometimes gone haywire. But love for this life overrides grief. The sorrow of one poem is balanced out by poems such as "Corny," a three-part poem which celebrates the many varieties of corn and makes us want to run to the nearest farm stand. Throughout the collection the reader feels exhilarated by Crooker's passion and gratitude, her heightened awareness of the earth's beauty, its radiance. Here's a poet who knows how to choose the right words, how to create images, and how to make music of poetry. Listen to these lines from "A Congregation of Grackles": "Scruffy lawns / turn a little greener, daylight preens, spreads / its feathers. Grackles fan their wings,/ and clatter and clack in the maple trees, / making a racket that passes for song." These poems, too, pass for song.

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