Of Feathers and Fire

Of Feathers and Fire

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Of Feathers and Fire

Fragments From a Fractured Mind

Sarah Cooper

6 X 9 inches, 72 pages

Penumbra Press Poetry Series, No. 71

The idea behind "fragments" is not that the poems themselves are fragmented, it is that they are fragments. They nonetheless flow with a purpose, confidently, and when pieced together they tell the whole story.

The poet's voice is soft, delicate, vulnerable, with a power that comes through with honesty and directness. A power that has to be found and explored. Like the oppositional dialectic implied in the title and cover art, the poems tell a conflicting story that is both simple and complex, real and dream-like.

A fragile girl and a curious fox, a rising phoenix and a shattered love, like feathers and fire opposing each other's nature, leave the reader curious about a resolution. Navigating around such conflicting forces is one way to read through the book, but not the only way. Elements of happiness and humour are also there, counterbalanced by the journey toward self-worth and truth.

A fragile girl knows that grief is grey, suicide is cold black water, and that memories and daydreams are often surrounded in a halo of white. She knows that a little goes a long way; an orange fox creeping up to her as she weeps in the grass. A little goes a long way because when you are depressed little moments of hope are often all you get.

The strength of the poet's voice is evident in her passion; her words are her life and art, integrated as one. She is a poet who wants to show others walking along a road that maybe is as grey and dark as hers that it's possible to catch a glimpse of a small flame burning bright within the mist of those dark travels, to be reignited by that flame, and to conquer their fear of the journey.

A fragile girl knows a small flame burns bright in the night when it is the only light.

Here is a brave young poet who, in her own words, is "paying with broken glass". Sarah Cooper's language and images are vivid, often deceptive in their simplicity. She takes us straight to the skin, under the skin, and into the terrain of the heart and to the depths of what many call mental illness.

I want to be rid of you!
Claw at myself
Until I've scratched the memories away.

The poems leave us purified by their fire, by their unforced insight, by the remarkable chemistry of Cooper's self-knowledge, humour, and courage in allowing longing and agony to fall like drops of blood on the page.

If I would like to stay off the floor
Now would be a good time to lie down.

Our shoulder blades, like those of the poet, tingle — "I feel where wings should be" — as we arrive with the poet at the final poem of the collection, a celebration:

I'm dreaming of foxes
I'm dreaming of wolves
And all of the stories
I haven't yet told.

Of Feathers and Fire: Fragments From a Fractured Mind is equally unsettling and beautiful, an impressive first book of poetry. We await eagerly the stories Sarah Cooper hasn't yet told.

 Deirdre Kessler
Prince Edward Island poet laureate 2016-2018

Sarah Cooper


Sarah Cooper grew up in both Quispamsis and Saint John, New Brunswick, under the watchful eye of her Labrador Retriever Beau. She began her struggle with mental illness at a young age, in many forms, and caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors. She discovered that music was her favorite form of therapy, and within lyrics she found understanding. While in high school Sarah was officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, and a diagnosis of Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizure Disorder followed shortly after. Once High school came to its conclusion she moved to Prince Edward Island, where she fell in love with the Island and its inhabitants. She then studied creative writing at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. This is her first book.

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