In all details of life, she finds grace

Barbara Crooker's carefully observed verse moves from darkness to the light.

Getting a first book of poems published can seem an insurmountable challenge. Few publishers are willing to print debut collections and few newspapers will give them coverage.

But Barbara Crooker's Radiance - which won the Word Press First Book Prize - is worth a mention. In these pages the Pennsylvania poet writes both of artists - Rodin, Van Gogh, Cézanne - and the art of living. For Crooker, attention to detail is crucial. She looks at the world with loving attention - noticing the way light falls, the subtle shifts in mood - and even in disappointment she finds some small blessing.

In "Some October" she writes:

Some October, when the leaves turn gold, ask
me if I've done enough to deserve this life
I've been given. A pile of sorrows, yes, but joy
enough to unbalance the equation.

When the sky turns blue as the robes of heaven,
ask me if I've made a difference.

Crooker writes with great feeling but is not sentimental. She knows how to mine the mundane - driving in rain, watching geese in flight, snuggling with her husband - for kernels of joy and wisdom. Any experience can become transcendent, even watching her autistic son disappear into his own mind.

Crooker is a poet who turns consistently from "darkness into light."

She always returns to the art of gazing, appreciating, and then shaping moments into words.

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