The Orange Room Review

Accessible poetry of substance

Harry Calhoun's review of What to Do with a Dying Parakeet by Corey Cook

What to Do with a Dying Parakeet, by Corey Cook. Pudding House Publications, 81 Shadymere Lane, Columbus, OH 43213. Website at Paperback, 17 pages, $10.

I first came across Corey Cook by way of the magazine he edits with his wife Rachael, The Orange Room Review. I was impressed by the quality of the poetry I saw there and was delighted when Corey accepted some of my work. So when I found out that he had two chapbooks of poetry out, I was quick to get one for myself. Cook's first chapbook, published in January 2009, was Rhododendron in a Time of War. It contains some strong work, and What to Do with a Dying Parakeet continues that tradition.

Where the first chapbook (available here) contains mostly shorter poems (a lot of haiku and one prose poem - 
flash fiction, as they call it these days), his new chapbook contains mostly longer poems. Still, all but one of them fit on one page, so the book is highly accessible and readable. The poems are strong, and as befits the dedication to Cook's late grandmother, a lot of them deal with death and loss. Two of them, "Triptych: A Grandmother" and "Triptych: A Grandfather Responding to Loss," are particularly powerful. Having lost both parents in recent years, reading these poems effectively brought back sad memories for me, a testament to Cook's skill and genuine sensitivity.  

Whether Corey's subject matter is the birth of a lamb or Thanksgiving dinner, the language is plain yet exact, readable yet profound.  It's in the title poem that he reaches his creative zenith. "What to Do with a Dying Parakeet" deals effectively and realistically about the horrors of a life ending. In this case, the subject is a caged bird, but ask nurses in terminal wards and they'll tell you about the feelings that Cook is expressing here. He does an excellent job of articulating the frustration, sadness and inability to do anything except wait for the inevitable. Most of us have experienced this, whether with a pet or a loved one, but this poem does an exemplary job of bringing it home. It starts out on a humorous note:

We considered the possibilities:
we could drop a rock on him,
drown him in the sink, poison
him with household products...

But the poet and his unnamed companion are unable to perform the mercy killing, so they wait for the inevitable:

We then wrapped him in a towel
and held him, held him
so he couldn't fly, or try to fly, held
him when those green eyelids fell...

It's good writing, writing from somebody who cares and therefore can make the reader care. Corey Cook is a talented young writer who bears watching as his poetry continues to mature.

~ Previously published in Chiron Review