Reviewed by Beatriz Coppello
The Book of Falling
by David McCooey
Paperback, 100 Pages, January 2023, ISBN-13: 978-0645536973
“To fall is to be human. We fall in love, fall asleep, and fall from grace. And in this epoch that we have called the Anthropocene, we are witnessing nothing less than the fall of nature”. David McCooey is an academic and award-winning poet, whose poetry has the ability to straddle the internal and external world; the past and present. His poetry is meticulous, presented in a range of forms and styles. Most of the poems in The Book of Falling are satires and elegies where ‘absurdism’ prevails. Yes, our existence is absurd, the world lacks meaning, and it is not fully intelligible by reason. The poet’s concerns about the environment are also evident in this collection, as in the following poem titled “Anthropocene”:
Even now, at this late hour,
there is a world entirely free
of names. No days of the week.
No anniversaries or hours, even
when the air is free oof light
or rife with backlit insects.
No epochs, not even that
Augural one we have named
McCooey has a great sense of humour and is not afraid to say what he thinks or use expletives to make a point like in the poem titled “Dreams”, a poem which, as a psychologist, fascinated me:
Your id doesn’t give a fuck
about cultural appropriation
or what is appropriate
in the workplace.
It takes you half the morning
to shake off the memory
of that improper kiss,
or the leisurely, slow-mo
sense of falling.
Dreams are slow
not Taylor Swift.
The Book of Falling includes family photos to accompany short reflections and observations. Also included in the book in the section titled “Redundancies” are photos taken by McCooey. The poems associated with these photos are short and full of sarcasm and irony, quite different to other poems in the book. In the construction of these small gems the author utilises found text. Having been made redundant in the past I perfectly understand the feelings behind these poems, which McCooey conveys very well.
There is no question that McCooey is a creative and sophisticated poet. In this collection he turns questions and lists into poems. He also has included various narrations and short poems which are precise and concise with manicured lines. One of the poems, “Your Life as a Movie”, cleverly shows the many ways we find meaning in life against its illogicality and incongruity.
It is very difficult to write personal poems, yet McCooey does it with ease and absorbs the reader into family tales and events. For example, in a poem that hints at the book’s title, “A brief History of Falling”, the many ways that the speaker’s mother and father fall come across with precision and humour:
It was a family joke that my father,
while drunk, fell from a diving board
by a swimming pool in Nigeria.
Stepping aside, as if to say ‘After you,’
to the intoxicated man behind him,
his good manners led to the concrete below,
a cracked skull, and a broken pelvis.
‘Daft bugger,’ my mother would say,
laughing at the dinner table, where that story
would sporadically be related.
Only years later did she tell me of the time
she saw him in London after his accident;
it must have been around 1960.
He was a broken man, and she felt sorry for him,
Which I took to be her way of saying
That she fell in love with him.
Reading The Book of Falling is like taking your own plunge into the energy, power and sensitivity of McCooey’s words.