“I got the modern sounds of modern Massachusetts”

From the distances of time and space, one thinks about the places (the voids) that constitute “home,” because Boston has always been mythical for me at first (especially Cambridge, the handful of streets I lived on before 1975) and odious later, though leavened by the chance to meet fellow poets I admire from my generation and older, from whom I continue to gain access to poetry as a process of privileged revelations, access to fruitful silence.

Christina Strong introduced me to James Cook at a reading he gave for Dan Bouchard’s excellent Union Square Poetry series at PA’s Lounge in Somerville. It was probably the spring of 2005 though I can’t remember, since I’d seen James at other readings and had been aware of his poems for a while through common poet friends. Christina got me a copy of his book she published, Some Arguments (Openmouth Press, 2005), that afternoon after he’d read his poems, occasionally interrupted by his daughter who wandered around the stage and sat on his lap for a while as he read. The other text of his I own is the fold-out pamphlet from Pressed Wafer, from Arguments & Letters (2005). Sufficient proof of his achievements, as we find in this poem from the latter:

(a second argument concerning allegory)

I once watched the swans
lift their heft up off the sea-mound
and labor above the causeway
over black, heavy lines

only to rest again swan-like in the cove
as if they’d never been the unwieldy beasts

I know I’d seen.

Because he lives in Gloucester, there are conduits to Charles Olson, then John Wieners. Though one must read him on his own terms, a distinct frequency. Because we share the same profession, I imagine my own interactions with capital finding displays in his verse. The importance of place in one’s handwriting. The notebook’s worry for the sources of what vibrations, trembling, calm and composition ensuing. In a poem for Gerrit Lansing, from the same Pressed Wafer pamphlet, Cook finishes with three swaths of ecstasy:

Ecstatic. We twitch –

unselved with swift


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