A Branson wedding

My blogging fell off a cliff this busy, busy spring, and I failed to capture so many cool and fun things. It was a great time, if exhausting. Near the beginning of the spring came a weekend trip to Branson, Mo., for Lori’s cousin’s wedding and for me to meet all kinds of her relatives there.

On the way from St. Louis to Springfield…

Both kinds!

A photo posted by Patrick Cooper (@btrpkc) on

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Picked up Ron Padgett’s new collection, “Alone and Not Alone,” a while back and just got a chance/remembered to pull it off the shelf and read it. The New York Times, amid saying nice things about the book, opines on Padgett’s openness in saying “nice” and excerpts one of my favorite poems from the book in doing so.

Dinner is a damned nice thing
as are breakfast and lunch
when they’re good and with
the one you love.

That poem’s called “Pep Talk,” for what the food gives us. I also like one about a butterfly. And one about what it means to relax. And one about the first person to say “I think the world of you.” My favorite passage from it end up on this page, a page that oddly says almost nothing else.

Don’t go around all day
thinking about life—
doing so will raise a barrier
between you and its instants.
You need those instants
so you can be in them,
and I need you to be in them with me
for I think the world of us
and the mysterious barricades
that make it possible.

‘The green Wi-Fi fuse’

I love the July/August issue of Poetry as much as I’d loved any magazine issue all year, I think. I’ve just finished it, and new love can be overstated love. Enjoyed? Is that a better word? Enjoyed more than any magazine issue all year. Let’s withhold love to wait for time. I’ve enjoyed the issue because of how strange and different and young and open it is, filled with voices that throw around love without waiting for time.

I enjoy the beginning, Amy Newman’s “Howl,” opening, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by wedding 
planners, dieting, in shapewear, / dragging themselves in cute outfits through the freezer section for the semifreddo bender, / blessed innovative cloister girl pin-ups burning to know the rabbi of electricity in poverty, obedience, in the dream stick of opium and the green Wi-Fi fuse….”

Then into a long poem about an early New England witch hunter, then an appreciation of limericks, with Anthony Madrid both mentioning Evanston and writing one that made me laugh out loud (the blackjack one), then two pieces of art made of letters, numbers and symbols, all of which your brain would like to form into sense but cannot.

Then there’s a whole section the magazine apparently worked on with Tavi and her Rookie people. Has the average age of the writers in this publication ever been so young? What a data set, should it ever exist. I would say the theme of the section is taking chances with poetry, with sharing, with exposure, in an environment (school/teen often here but any will do) filled with player also unsure of themselves and developing in different directions, sloppy but earnest, as likely to be with you as to run into you.

Closing the issue are short essays on poetry from Ai Weiwei, Rhymefest and others, but the last major section is a collection of poetry by Alice Notley, who I’d never heard before this issue (I’m unfamiliar with most of the names in each issue of the magazine, which only makes me more interested in them) but who writes with the same fever. “This fire all there is … to find … I find it / You have to find it. It isn’t love, it’s what?”

I know the next issue arrives tomorrow, most likely

But for one weekend, it’s nice to be caught up.

Someday I will adopt a fall-back position:

I subscribe to way too many magazines, which means, inevitably, that I toss out a lot of them without reading every last article. Or sometimes, alas, without reading any articles at all. Some magazines, of course, are harder to throw out than others, The New Yorker being the classic example. To subscribe to The New Yorker is to accept the feeling of inadequacy that comes with flipping on SportsCenter rather than attacking the unread pile of them on your bedside table.

But not yet.

Patrick Coopers forever

One of my favorite digital writers, Paul Ford, has a recent story in The New Republic about the Social Security death database. Alongside the article comes a searchable visualization of American birth and death data.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I’ve been tracking the sad decline of “Patrick” for years. This new interactive brings no revival on that front. Not only are our births in steep decline but our deaths have largely trended upward.

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But, for once, there’s some good news in the data. While my first name may have its problems, my full name at least has this going for it: it doesn’t die very much. Since 1936, according to the database, only 35 Patrick Coopers have died.

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Compared to other names, and willfully misinterpreting the data, it’s like we live forever. That I’ve corresponded with half a dozen other Patrick Coopers seems stranger now. We are fewer than I thought. Or all will live forever.

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Shyness quotes

In 2012, I was going to write a post about shyness. These two links were inspiring. I never wrote the post, and these two links were explanatory.

In Praise of Shyness,” by James Parker (original link). “Shyness is a tribute paid to the gravity of human interaction, a proper dread at the fact of other people: their closeness, the weight of their existence, their power to hurt, and our power to hurt them.”

Shy Boy,” by Greg Sellers.

The orchestra’s now ready to Fauré
into the evening’s last song while I try
to convince myself to cross this room
for the first time all night and rinse


A related link comes from a friend on Facebook today, here in 2015. “What Each Myers-Briggs Personality Type Is Like As A Friend” is the headline. “INFJ: The friend you have to plan a week ahead to see (in order to give them time to mentally prepare for the hangout) but then always end up spending ten plus hours discussing the nature of life, the Universe and everything with.”

A last today comes from a daily headlines email and new data analysis that doesn’t quite fit but does somewhat. “America is still a country of lonely commuters.”

Poems tilting toward spring

Wrote a while back. Never posted, never really finished.


The Spring Poem,” by Dave Smith.

Awaking in New York,” by Maya Angelou.

Spring,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

The birthday of the world,” by Marge Piercy.


Yes, we can look backward to winter or, sadly, to the present still-winter. I’m looking out the window at the increasing flurries right now, and the forecasters say freezing rain will follow. This first day of March, as I mentioned earlier today, follows Washington’s coldest February in 36 years.

Meanwhile in Chicago, coming off a month of great poems related to Black History Month, and a brutal and continuing winter, the Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day feed resumes more-varied broadcasting today with an Emily Dickinson poem comparing traumatic pain to snowy cold and death.

But all isn’t lost in a snowbank. There’s some hope in the verses. The chilly pain can be “Remembered, if outlived.” A final line mentions, after the chill and stupor, the possibility of letting go. Letting go bad? Or letting go good? I’m choosing to be optimistic today, even as the snow blows.

Looking for more about the poem, I came across a site called Shmoop.com, which seems to be CliffsNotes-meets-Buzzfeed. (A related-stories area gets the header, “People who Shmooped this also Shmooped….”) Shmoop chases this Dickinson poem for its millennial (or younger?) audience, and the site’s conclusions make my day.

Sooner or later, everybody gets a shock. And we’re not talking about the kind of shock you get when you try to slide a Hot Pocket out of the toaster oven with a fork. We’re talking about the kind of deep emotional shock that comes when something seriously bad happens.

Maybe you miss the final shot at the big game even though you’re awesome. Or it could be that you discover your Dad has a secret family in Costa Rica. Or maybe somebody close to you dies.

Whatever it is—no matter how huge or miniscule—the period of time right after the initial pain can be pretty crappy. You can feel lost, alone, and totally numb to the world.

Whenever you’re feeling like this, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes” is a poem that’s there for you. Don’t expect it to be there with sunshine and roses, though. Nah, it’s that friend who’s there to say, “Look, dude, I know how you feel.” As you read these lines that perfectly capture the conflicted feelings that come after a trauma, you’ll know it’s being straight up with you.

So, like the angsty tween readers of Shmoop, let us try to move forward with hope. In poetry selections of this time of year, I see so much “Look, dude, I know how you feel” happening. We know spring lurks!

Related favorites of mine recently include…

Probability,” by Lia Purpura.

Most coincidents are not
miraculous, but way more
common than we think—
it’s the shiver
of noticing being

Abide” by Jake Adam Work, and Natasha Trethewey’s first selection for the poem feature in the redesigned New York Times Magazine. It’s a slow burner, growing warmer, and worth it.

Trethewey’s second selection, “Moth Orchids” by Ellen Bass, is fantastic too. Trethewey writes: “Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings showed us how sensual flowers could be. Ellen Bass’s poem does this, too, reminding us of the power of metaphor: how one thing is like another, how desire can be reflected in the way we see and how our sustained attention — to language, to the things of this world — can reward us again and again.”

An Old Woman’s Painting” by Lynn Emanuel speaks to the warmth we find even when the nights are cold, mentioning autumn but still fitting for this time of year when we doff or don our coats depending on the time of day. “Let the world stand wearily on the stoop of  the jail / of  the world….”

And then there’s “I Allow Myself” by Dorothea Grossman. It begins:

I allow myself
the luxury of breakfast
(I am no nun, for Christ’s sake).

Last, we have “The Mushroom House,” which isn’t a poem at all but an actual house. Click to see the photos. The name fits, and right now I wish I could live there.

The architect, inspired by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, created an undulating design with rolling curves and curls. Because of the home’s cavelike exterior, created by a polyurethane foam coating, many people are surprised to find it light and airy inside, not dark and gloomy.

“It is very, very private,” Frances said. “It is open and free but very private.”