Send That Arrow: the Poems of David Cope

Poetry comes flowing from many heads, hearts, guts, from many times and spaces, and out onto that vast whiteness of the blank page, to become tangible, no longer floating around in wherever poems come from. Poems come various and vast, from the overtly academic to the quirky to the simple and punchy. With six books of poetry out, and a forthcoming selected poems titled Moonlight Rose in Blue: The Selected Poems of David Cope, David Cope's clever poems draw on the subtle and ordinary, incorporating, most importantly, the gut. David Cope's poems tell no lies. They are arrows of syllables shot straight at the reader, the sort of poems that quietly sneak up on you unassumingly, but by the time you've finished, you've been overtaken, sending soft chills down your back.
Whether a poem be about a dead deer or Tiger Stadium, David Cope's poems are infused with real Americana, mixing nature with the city, the animal kingdom with the human kingdom, in a way that draws shows just as many similarities as differences. This juxtaposition of the natural and that man-made is prevalent through much of his work. For instance, a sonnet like “The Old Stebbens Place,” taken from his book On the Bridge, speaks of the “wild grape & maple growing/thru the rotted timbers/moldering where the basement was.” Nature overcomes what man has abandoned, and with Cope's language, it is rendered photographically, with the sonnet ending with “we stood a moment & dreamed their dream/water rippling in the nearby stream.”
Drawing largely on the Imagists and haiku, David Cope's poems are alive and earthy, documents of a life that's both heavy and light. In the introduction to his forthcoming collection of selected poems Cope declares “My work is acutely tuned to the lives of plain blue-collar folk,” and not much rings truer than that. When Cope is at his most remarkable his poems are stunning and deep, but so entirely accessible because of his use of common, striking language. Poems like “Sunday Morning,” from his book Coming Home, communicate the weight of situations where people once loved have become embittered, and in such a way that anyone can understand. He doesn't need to reference Byron or Shelley. He just needs to put that arrow in the bow, take aim, and release.
If there is any poetry that can actually change the role of poetry in the world from an insular one to a contributing aspect of society, it is the poetry of David Cope's, because it's poetry that is accessible, but in a way in which it does not sacrifice any of its power or grit. Because Cope's poems are gritty, just as this world we live in is. Throughout his work, David Cope maintains his observational voice, shining his light on these daily fissures, detailing the hard work shifts, the fishing days, the sunsets, the fights, the silences, all of the tenderness and harshness of the human struggle. He's begging us to look around.

Works by David Cope

Through the 3rd Eye was supported in its inception by the Grand Rapids Humanities Council and is currently made possible by continued volunteer effort and private support. Copyright 2013.