Wonder About The
by Matthew Cooperman
Releasing July 7, 2023
Winner of the 2022 Halcyon Poetry Award
Matthew Cooperman is the author of, most recently, NOS (disorder, not otherwise specified), w/Aby Kaupang, (Futurepoem, 2018), as well as Spool, winner of the New Measure Prize (Free Verse Editions, 2016), the text + image collaboration Imago for the Fallen World, w/Marius Lehene (Jaded Ibis, 2013), Still: of the Earth as the Ark which Does Not Move (Counterpath, 2011) and other books. A Poetry Editor for Colorado Review, and Professor of English at Colorado State University, he lives in Fort Collins with his wife, the poet Aby Kaupang, and their two children. http://matthewcooperman.org
Wonder About The represents Colorado stitched by threads of the water cycle, specifically the Cache la Poudre River, explored with an intimacy and depth. Cooperman’s wordcraft serves to facilitate connections, and his words work their way through all—as the water does, and as the host of chemicals we’ve injected into it do. Voiced here is the asemic language of water with its aeonian syntax following ancient canals. Wonder About The is, perhaps, rhetoric in its best definition, in its best light; forthright—but not polemically, not contentious, but pressing light against contention—to undermine, to cleanse. These words are a plow which the rain follows.
—David Anthony Martin, author of The Ground Nest, Bijoux and others
Mathew Cooperman’s Wonder About The succeeds superbly in the great challenge of eco-poetry, i.e. the question of presenting—given the claim that in writing “exposition is death”—information through poetic means. It’s a daunting challenge and it’s clear from the prefatory “Thesis” to its closing “Whose ditches these are” with its echo of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods …” that Cooperman has personally experienced the beauties of the water systems not only of northern Colorado but by implication the whole earth and has found the poetic means through repetition and variation to sing the river’s boundless beauties and to ruefully embody the cruel ironies of how it is damaged. In one poem he borrows the format of a weather report where “a chance of scattered acids/will be spraying down roads,” showing the unconscious way that environmental damage is done, in a hardly noticeable never mind reprehensible way. The result of Cooperman’s masterful touch is that the reader feels both the love and the heartbreaking threat to a pristine wild and scenic river and the plant and animal lives it sustains.
—Bill Tremblay, author of Walks Along the Ditch
“Water is wise,” Matthew Cooperman writes, and his luminous book of poems, Wonder About The, generously bears forth this wisdom. Wonder About The is a work of revelatory ecopoetic wonder, a deep and flowing meditation on the Poudre River bioregion and its manifold worlds. In its expansive, intricate layering of riparian scenes and life forms, oil and gas wells, echoes of songs and poems, hydrological cycles and water scarcity, this book creates resonant space for the difficult, beautiful contradictions of our ecological present. “It rolls on / beyond us”: Wonder About The offers its readers an enduring reflection on, and celebration of, the river’s powerful sources of renewal.
—Margaret Ronda. author of For Hunger
"Water rolls through opening poem of Wonder About The, water as force and foundation but also a source for the hubris of men bent on shaping the land to their desires. Matthew Cooperman takes us through a panorama of the west in this deep look at the land and our inseparableness from it. Stunning uncaptioned landscape photographs accompany the poems, shadowed by our unavoidable realization that the ecosystems pictured remain threatened. How long will be able to see what Cooperman records as he warns us about “wet seasons going dry” and “Benzene burn[ing] the buttercup”? Quoting from sources as diverse as a fracking industry newsletter, a county commissioner, and a water department’s report, as well as Adam Smith, Whitman, Yeats and Theodore Enslin, Cooperman writes within the lineage of place-based, proto-environmental poets William Carlos Williams and Lorine Niedecker. Like Williams and Niedecker, he is a keen attendant to human and natural environments and assemblies. Part praise song, part history, part warning and part elegy, the poems in Wonder About The offer readers both a question and a vitally important command."
—Susan Briante, author of Defacing the Monument
Benzene Burns the Buttercup:
a review of Matthew Cooperman's Wonder About The
by David Anthony Martin
In Wonder About The we find a remedy to a line by William Carlos Williams, referenced within the work itself: "Who because they neither know their sources nor the sills / of their disappointments walk outside their bodies aimlessly". Cooperman's collection is an answer to the implied question in those lines, and knowing "there is thirst in asking", we are quenched with the answer that there is a "privilege in imagination/ this arrogance/ this use of water". Wonder About The contains the lyric and the somatic, and has the "nose of place" firmly planted in the prehistoric and contemporary territory, or body, of the American west. Cycles of water & life, rock, soil, rivers, cities & grain "alfalfa, sorghum and wheat", presented through the great body of time.
This collection represents Colorado stitched by threads of the water cycle, explored with an intimacy and depth that penetrates both substrata and cell walls and which pushes the interdisciplinary boundaries of poetry to shine light on interconnectedness, interpenetration; oneness as ubiquitous as a hyperobject, "all honing and hum / we are from / a great ball / we're standing within". Cooperman's working of words serve to facilitate connections, and his words work their way through all, as the water does, as the host of chemicals (phenol, arsenic, benzene, xylene, toluene, ethyl) we've produced and injected into the system do. Voiced here is the asemic language of water with its aeonian syntax following ancient canals "arterial and flush" re-membered by the mind, seeping through the body and its "thyroidal currents/ gone astray awry". Here we have the hydrosphere as commons, a shared flow through us "what / we eat, drink, breathe", an "Arterial labor to / thread one earth life to the next".
The poet can be seen as "the letter animal at night" or a "lonely noun making / its way", out beyond the "sulphurous glow/ a Walmart parking lot", where the green John Deere tractor is a part of "the field's design" because the poet knows that, "feral, or otherwise, things tend to move around" and as an inquisitive mind, "went to the wells to see what he could find".
Wonder About The is, perhaps, rhetoric in its best definition, in its best light, forthright, but not polemically, not contentious, but pressing light against contention — to undermine, to cleanse. Parental lament speaks, in wonderings about "which river / which river winds to your sea?" as we awaken to the knowledge that "what surrounds us surrounds / us becomes us larger". A brilliant defiance refines the dialectic: "inform the shareholders/ what we share we hold". In these poems which hammer "history's ditch to hungry mouths", we see the precipice our children inhabit and inherit "our children— / our desperate thirsts / our raveling threads / our children".
These words are a plow which the rain follows.
—David Anthony Martin, author of Bijoux and The Ground Nest