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Playlist: Poet Susan Cook Poems

Compiled By: Susan J. Cook

Edna St Vincent Millay wrote many sonnets. Credit: Susan Cook
Image by: Susan Cook 
Edna St Vincent Millay wrote many sonnets.

Poet Susan Cook Poems are written in a form she calls the American Sonnet. After submitting her collection "Blue: American Sonnets" to the Beatrice Hawley contest, sponsored by Alice James Books, she has continued to find new intricacies in this form, some of which are gathered here. She has now composed well over 1000. Traditional romance has always been the sonnet's domain but Poet Susan Cook Poems reminds us that human passion is called upon many times and in many ways in the tasks of living.

Sonnet for Looking for China

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :59

From the Spring 2023 Maine Arts Journal. A poem on the intricacies of grieving.

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Sonnet for Looking for China

(Maine Arts Journal, Spring 2023)

-Susan Cook-


I am in my garden when I fall on

my knees because I remember I can't

find you now. Things that call or that beckon,

what walks toward me, has not been you. It can't

be. So, because I remember behind

everything, there is always something more,

I start to dig. People have tried to find

China this way. You found it, I bet, sure

now, of where it is that loss goes, the fall

it brings. I will find it too and when we're

there, together, we will celebrate small

truths. "Woman burrows to China." We'll cheer

human accomplishment, what cupped hands can

do, know what it is we didn't know then.


An American Sonnet for The Woman Who Is a Journalist

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:17

During National Poetry Month, an American Sonnet to bring us to know better the women journalists of Ukraine.

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American Sonnet for the Woman Who Is a Journalist

For the women journalists of Ukraine

The moral righteousness of the human
spirit gradually appears as suffering,
a dark spot on the lungs, another strand
of fatigue. Her sustenance, enough, brings
the heaviness to us differently. Just there,
in her questioning, we see physical
intricacies of transformation. This
is how evil spreading its miserable
inhumanity begins to change. This
is how goodness brings itself to the small
crevice inside, asleep, reawakened,
rising from the body's cellular call
compassion, for all who are forsaken.
The softened voice speaks as if her bones find
words, chiseled there by those buried alive.

-Susan Cook-

Tell Me How Many Black Seabirds

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:02

In these times, a poem for the places we find resilience.

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Tell Me How Many Black Seabirds
-Susan Cook-

 

Tell me how many black seabirds

woke up this morning, flew to a high place,

shook off a thousand drops of river, heard

each one, in slow motion, fall, a trace

of where each one began inside. This is

a daily ritual. They celebrate

with such silence, quiet applause, which is

to say, this abundance will tell a (late

sometimes) lie. The absence of chaos, just

drops of water shaken off, lets the heat

from the sun's dependable rays, we trust,

bring heart to any body's weary beat.

Tell me how we remind ourselves to turn

to the deliberate, needing it just now.

Doing Good for Evil: An American Sonnet

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:07

My father often said his mother always told him, "Do good for evil." It's drawn from the Bible "This is your calling, your business in life- to do good and to do good for evil." I Peter 3:9

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Do Good for Evil:
An American Sonnet
-For Gary Lawless-

-Susan Cook-

 

First, you take your place in the lineage

of humanity, right there. You are one

of many. Again, we see sin's triage

unfold. All and everything is undone.

You (and many others, after all) watched, stilled

by the sight and sound of desperation.

Where does the seam of evil come loose, filled

too tight, inconspicuous, impatient.

There is nothing left for us to do but

give what no one has asked of us, to tame

harm before its time, the knife lifted, cut

smaller and smaller, no evil star flamed.

Do good for evil. Do good for evil.

When we are left motionless, leave good will.

Remembering We Have Already Said Farewell: "Epilogue: To a Fire Gone" from "Breathing: American Sonnets"

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:42

An American Sonnet to those to whom we have said "Farewell".

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From "Breathing: American Sonnets"
by Susan Cook
(available from  GulfofMainebooks@gmail.com)

 

Epilogue

 

To a Fire Gone

 

After "Reluctance: by Robert Frost

Ah, when to the heart of man

Was it ever less than treason

To go with the drift of things,

To yield with a grace to reason

And bow and accept the end

Of a love or a season?

 

 

When was it less than treason? But what do

you mean, Mr. Frost? That’s for countries to

feel short-changed by. Loss happens to those who

see the passing on of days, years, one blue

time in life, one breaking, undoing a

treacherous rope they have been tied onto,

its deep burn. In the coldest time of day

or night, fires started that you thought grew

larger instead were, licked back into their

own intensity, remained confined on

one small patch of earth. You did not see where

the fire, some time later, died. You were gone.

Big difference, see, between countries resigned

to losing, small unfed fires, gone in time.

Sonnet for Justice

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:34

A sonnet about justice when it is buried and forgotten.

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Sonnet for Justice

Most of the world is doing stuff like that

most of the time. They are taking justice

out in the backyard in a body bag.

Most of them think, we’ll never know. Just this

should prove to us, clearly, reality

has its way, anyway. Our consciousness

knows the world can be a bad place without

actually seeing the men lift listless

bodies, you know, very carelessly, up.

The world cannot imagine justice placed

in some back yard like that, neglected, much

less the earth thrown over the shallow grave.

Consciousness can not protect her, listless,

in her shallow grave, breathless now justice.

 

-Susan Cook-

In "Breathing: American Sonnets"

The Discovery of Light: An American Sonnet

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :55

Thomas Edison and what his light did- understood through an American Sonnet.

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The Discovery of Light: An American Sonnet

-Susan Cook-

Thomas Edison discovered cotton,

carbonized, sent out strands of silky light.

The non-believers drove for miles, not in

fascination, but in doubt that night sight

didn't  require burning  fire first,

a kindling so much harder to ignite,

the loss of life, from time to time, the curse

of other lamps, the tragedy of fire

placed too close, times when frightened horses kicked

the stable candle, burning hay that brought

entire  towns  to ash, the flames that licked

up everything, the cost of fire caught.

Some still don't  trust a horse's fear, sudden

swaying, still not sure what this  light has done.

 

Sonnet for the US Ducks Independently Verified to Have been Neither Forcefed for Foie-Gras Production Nor Plucked of Their Feathers and Down During Their Lifetime

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:17

A United States outdoor clothing store sells coats, labelled to assure us that the down is from US Ducks Independently Verified to Have been Neither Forcefed for Foie-Gras Production Nor Plucked of Their Feathers and Down During Their Lifetime. Scott Pruitt who sued the Environmental Protection Agency over a dozen times has been installed as the agency's head. In reading the label on a down coat, I have found consolation, hope and small victory that our environmental sensibilities will survive, sentiments presented here in a sonnet, in the Department of Poetic Justice.

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Sonnet for the US Ducks Independently Verified
to Have been Neither Forcefed for Foie-Gras Production
Nor Plucked of Their Feathers  and Down During  Their Lifetime
-Susan Cook-

I want these ducks to know my faith in our
country has been re-nourished by this feat
when they grow the down , in their pro-life hour
in their solitary stance against the elite
practices that feed the rich while the ducks
live lives of strangulation, the minute’s
peace, lost, the moment when the neck curves, tucks
itself inside the plush gift. Diminish
the significance of the gift, the down’s weight,
the coat that will keep anyone warm, no
matter their social standing, EPA
head or not? Surely, they’re not our new foe.
Even ducks saved from force feeding won’t feed
you, Mr.Pruitt, your stick figure needs.

Small: An American Sonnet

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :57

In the large, large universe, the mind's eye still sees what it will.

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Small

It doesn't matter how diminished we

feel, situated deep deep within the

large, large universe, we now know, we see

more and more of, its every corner, the

source of a revelation, a surprise

appearance of something we did not know

was there but has been all along. The size

of anything is not important, no,

changes mostly depend on nothing more

than the sun's cast shadow, the patterns we are sure

to form, in our mind's eye,  largeness ignored,

the smallest persistent, convinced we'll endure.

Small, large do not save us as the mind's eye

slowly watches, no urgent need to hide.

America's Sonnet

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :57

From America's Sonnet, "This sonnet's yours America, but you
will not take all my loves, turn my Black, brown, blue."

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America's Sonnet
-Susan Cook-
It is so hard to write you this sonnet
because I long for you in another
way. I want to feel justified, make it 
like "Shall I compare thee to a summer
day?" But there was that summer day, one man
with all those guns that you allowed him to
buy to kill. He was an American-
style imposter. I want you to be true.
I will not  just say they're your pretty wrongs,
in your pursuit of happiness, me, you,
Then you go behind my back. Someone conned
me, telling me you have more than you do.
This sonnet's yours America, but you
will not take all my loves, turn black, brown, blue.

Ode to Mr. Roubini's West Grand Lake Bass Update

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:18

In Maine, Bass fishing on West Grand Lake is a destination respite for many, including Mr. Nouriel Roubini, the legendary economist who was almost single-handed in anticipating the 2008 housing collapse and world-wide recession. This "Ode to Mr. Roubini's West Grand Lake Bass " is revisited in the wake of the recent change in , let's say, the landscape under the "River of Financial Abundance".

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ODE TO MR. ROUBINI'S WEST GRAND LAKE BASS REVISITED

MR. ROUBINI, DO  YOU THINK IT WAS THE WEST GRAND LAKE BASS
THAT HELPED YOUR BRAIN CELLS  FORECAST THE 2008 CRASH?
WHEN YOUR FRIENDS HAD IGNORED THE CREDIT DEFAULT SWAP  DERIVATIVES,
AND IN 2009, BEGAN TAKING SELECTIVE SEROTONIN RE-UPTAKE INHIBITORS,
DID YOU GO HOME, OPEN THE FREEZER, REACHING DOWN   PAST  THE CASH,
 GET OUT THE BUTTER, AND SAY "LET'S HAVE SOME MORE BASS!"

LUCKY FOR YOU, SOME BASS STILL REMAINED
FROM YOUR SUMMER FUN FISHING IN GRAND LAKE STREAM, MAINE.
WHICH ALL BRINGS US BACK  TO THE VERY BIG QUESTION
OF INTRODUCING ALEWIVES , NOT YOUR USUAL ECONOMIC REFLECTION.
PLEASE FOCUS  THOSE BRAIN CELLS ON THE FUTURE AND THE PAST.
 TELL US, WILL INTRODUCING ALEWIVES TO THE ST. CROIX RIVER DRIVE OUT  THE BASS?
IF YOU THINK THAT THEY WILL,CALL A MAINE LEGISLATOR AND TAKE SIDES.
THERE ARE  EXPERTS THAT AGREE WITH YOU, THE GRAND LAKE STREAM GUIDES.
THESE ARE THE GUIDES WHO SHOW YOU WHERE TO FIND  BASS
( OMEGA-3S FOR THE MIND ) SO YOU CAN  MAKE A GOOD ECONOMIC  FORECAST.
WE KNOW MR. ROUBINI, YOU DON’T HAVE X-RAY VISION TO HELP YOU DELIVER
AN ASSESSMENT OF THE TOPOGRAPHY UNDER THE 1850'S ST. CROIX RIVER
BUT IF YOU WERE AN ALEWIVE FACING A 20 FOOT INCLINE
DOESN'T THAT  SOUND A LOT LIKE THE STOCK MARKET IN JANUARY 2009?
MR. ROUBINI, THE ONLY WAY FOR THE ALEWIVE IS UP, UP AND UP
BUT FOR ALEWIVES TWENTY FEET IS REALLY QUITE TOUGH.
YES, THERE ARE STRATEGIES, YOUR SPECIAL NICHE
BUT "BUY LOW, SELL HIGH" DOESN'T HELP OUT A FISH.
DON'T WE ALL WISH, GOVERNOR JANET MILLS HAD YOU ON HER SPEED DIAL?
WELL, SHE PROBABLY DOES AND CHECKS IT EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE.
MR. ROUBINI, MANY THINK THE COUNTRY CAN'T MISS
WITH YOU  ON HER SPEED DIAL AND YOUR WEST GRAND LAKE FISH.
MR. ROUBINI, YES, THERE ARE THE CRAPPIES AND LITTLE  SMALL TROUT
(AND NO, WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT HOW THEY WILL  VOTE.)
YOUR TASTE BUDS ARE NURTURED ON MICHELIN 5 STAR CLASS
SO THAT MEANS NOTHING  QUITE SUITS YOU LIKE A WEST Grand Lake Bass.

The 2022 Prologue,

Mr. Roubini, time to fire up the grill,
Get out your best marinade, put the Allagash on chill.
Your very best guide in this time of ticker tape upheaval
is not Bloomberg News or today's Wall Street Journal.
To keep your title as Dr. West Grand Lake Bass,
your Omega-3s jumping, still saving our last
nickels and dollars from going out with the tide,
go to www.grandlakestreamguides."


The 2023 Addendum:

Mr. Roubini , there's truth 
and then there's fiction
And then there's The Maine Legislature
Which some people  consider an affliction.
Well,  wrap your mind around the latest proposed bill 
To eliminate Bass fishing in some rivers
 by removing  any  and all existing  restriction .
So any hope we might have that  Novavax executives
Might sneak up to Maine and chow down 
on your favorite Omega 3 derivative 
Or some from AstraZeneca, Crisper
 or  others in the biotech sector,
Or  Biogen  now that everyone's not
 referring to it with an expletive.
We might see their stocks  soar 
or we might go so far as to say ,
By eating Maine bass, they will salvage
 the company’s fiscal
Hope for a 20 percent rise
 not only in workplace serenity 
But in their  52 week high 
reported by none other than Kai Rysdal.
Mr Roubini, the Registered Maine Guides 
will make room in the hearing room
So your testimony  insures LD 537 redacted 
by Maine’s elected political hackers.


As ever, Mr. Roubini, time to fire up the grill,
Get out your best marinade, put the Allagash on chill.
Your very best guide in this time of ticker tape upheaval
is not Bloomberg News or today's Wall Street Journal...
to keep your title as Dr. West Grand Lake Bass,
your Omega-3s jumping, still saving our last
nickels and dollars from going out with the tide,
go to www.grandlakestreamguides." 

-SUSAN COOK-

Sonnet For The Baseball Teams Playing "Sweet Caroline"

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :54

This is a sonnet for the baseball teams who after the tragedy at the Boston Marathon each played the song the Boston Red Sox play during a game when they score a home run.

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Sonnet for the Baseball Teams 
Playing "Sweet Caroline"
                 -Susan Cook-
Buddhists like to call it spontaneous
arising. Buddhists don't "like". They abide.
They await the day when the gain for us
is staying with what is here now,  a kind 
of seeing things as they are. So when two 
men made a bomb, and placed it at the race,
killing, stealing legs and arms, Buddhists knew 
showing compassion, would out distance base
and evil fear, the cruelty of the mean. 
Baseball teams in this country, knowing time
arises and dissipates, what is seen
is what there is, then played "Sweet Caroline".
Boston Red Sox fans knew then we are one,
hearts' score humanity, compassion's  run.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:07

Some years back The House of Representatives' healthcare bill denied maternity care and denied health insurance to 18 to 25 year olds. Back then, Maine's Representative Poliquin fled to the restroom when reporters asked about his vote to pass the bill. Only a sonnet conveys the stark neglect of others in his proposed bill.

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Sonnet for Whom the Bell Tolls
-Susan Cook-
The bell does not toll unselectively
anymore. It tolls for whom white men  want
it to. Those for whom we’ve wept - give me
your tired, your poor, your huddled mass, who want
to be free, remember- are left on bare
Mattresses. Newborns are a wealthy man’s tax
burden, babies denied health care, once they’re
born. Mr. Pro-Life’s knife, stabs at their backs
and ex- Representative Poliquin
hides in the men’s room. The truth has a fist,
that now endures and cannot be hidden.
In his healthcare vote, newborns don’t exist.
The bell tolls now for white men, who squander
this country of hope, the lost who’ve wandered. 

Sonnet for Donald Hall (after reading his essay on growing old)

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:07

Donald Hall died on June 23rd. A sonnet written after reading his essay on growing old.

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Sonnet for Donald Hall
(After Reading His Essay on Growing Old)
-Susan Cook-



Oh, Donald Hall, of course, you know that
barns, for generations, have been lost
when one last winter snow storm tears the past
apart, barns like time, there until they're not.
And Donald Hall, I'm coming by to cook
for you, who've lived the inexplicable:
that foods are truly love, the loves that look
you in the eye, the meal that leaves you full.
And Donald Hall, your tree sees where you sit
and all who've watched before sitting by your
side. Bending back in time, were you a finch?
The tree a boy? We'll never now for sure
if trees were boys or men were birds. We knew
only this man. That's you, now.  See? That's you.

A Sonnet for Negative Ads

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :57

Sometimes, there is an ineffable quality to the offensiveness of negative campaign ads. We turn here to the sonnet to express deep concern about negative political ads. Thus, for this 2014 Election Campaign season, "A Sonnet for Negative Ads".

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Sonnet for Negative Ads
-Susan Cook-
The ads have turned negative trying to
win votes. They imply it’s Godzilla now
running for office, a gorilla who 
loves big fat liberal doctrines.  Don’t ask how
he says it. Apparently he’s signing.
He’s now been discovered, his cover’s been
blown. He’s taking your tax dollars, mining
social security, this with a  win 
on Tuesday if he's succeeded, deceived
you into thinking he’s really human,
stands on two legs, counting votes he’s  received.
Voters beware! Gorillas are looming.
Out, out with the negative! You’re the real louse,
harming all creatures including the mouse.
 

Sonnet for President Obama's Tear

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:11

First published on the eve of Martin Luther King Day , we turn to our preferred form of political expression, the sonnet, to acknowledge the compassion President Obama has brought to the Presidency. Today, we offer a "Sonnet for President Obama's Tear''.

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Sonnet for President Obama’s Tear

Susan Cook

 

His tear is for every person lost since

illegal guns became more, much, so much

more available. How do you convince

the NRA these dead are  theirs too? Touch

the darkness of those who will not ever

know who their guns took, experience

wretched calculations of forever’s

duration, time with no end, grief re-sensed.

They calculate abstractly the time passed

for those whose children died, who are not here.

We only know one madman’s moment lasts

lifetimes when we can’t bear Obama’s tear.

Obama’s tear tells what must be retold.

Compassion’s time is for whom the bell tolls.

Sonnet for the First Fish, Best Fish

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :51

Sonnets are a way to find optimism in difficult times. This is a sonnet that acknowledges that the first fish is the best fish and can provide for many.

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Sonnet for The First Fish, Best Fish

-Susan Cook-
The first fish is remembered as the best
fish. It is the one that when it was caught
(remember, there were only two, the rest
elusive that day) it ended all thought
and fear they'd  have to go without, suffering
where it didn't need to be, unfounded.
If there was one, there would be enough, bring
in more the next time. We were astounded
that what looked like deprivation for so
long might not be that at all. The first fish
meant that those who had been turned away, no
compassion for their need, could be fed with just this.
The first fish will be the best, where the start
begins, for our minds, the eyes, for the heart. 

Sonnet for Gorbachev

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :57

The vision of Gorbachev now is destroyed by Vladimir Putin. A sonnet will remind us of what Gorbachev made possible and what is now lost by Putin's polarization.

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Sonnet for Gorbachev
In Independence Square that day, her face
held in his hand, they kissed. Back then, detente
protected them, his arm around her waist, 
that year, that day. Cold War memories still haunt
them, when love was impossible, above 
all, she without him, he without her, caught 
in diplomacy. But then Gorbachev
imagined a boy, a girl and love. Arms ought
to be for holding, international 
relations, so Gorbachev created
detente. That day, with things more rational,
in the square, love was reciprocated. 
Putin would like to end such caressing,
love his nemesis, countries confessing. 

A Poem to the President of the NRA

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:09

This poem to the President of the NRA has no statistics, no logic, no legal reasoning or principle. Only profound grief and sadness..

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A Poem to One President of the NRA
-Susan Cook-
Let's begin, Mr. Lapierre. You too
visualize: death's examiner, see
where there's the trail strewn with bloody hearts, blue
bodies, drained of life, their luscious mouths, we
can't begin to open because each one
comes back to this. We feed our young with spoons
of silver, gold. Someone acquires a gun
or leaves the door wide open to the rooms
and rooms where the guns are manufactured,
with a day like this in mind: someone, scared
(it could be you) whose fear has finally lured
him into thinking: This is truth or dare.
Whose child knows now, guns mean death, do not care,
don't distinguish truth from fear, fear from dare.