I’m pleased to announce the publication of A Different Wakeful Animal by Susan Cohen. Winner of the 2015 David Martinson—Meadowhawk Prize, this collection takes on profound questions in language that catches the ear and the imagination. Arising out of wild fires and ash, birds and shadows, deaths in the family and lives in the natural world, these poems investigate what perishes and what might remain.
Susan Cohen is also the author of two poetry chapbooks, a non-fiction book, and Throat Singing, a full-length collection of poems. She was a newspaper reporter, professor at the University of California Graduate School of Journalism, and contributing writer to the Washington Post Magazine before receiving a John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1998-9, where she divided her time between studying poetry and bioethics. She lives in Berkeley, California.
Comments on A Different Wakeful Animal
“There are pleasures in almost every poem in Susan Cohen’s excellent A Different Wakeful Animal, pleasures that arise out of an alertness to the natural world, and the original phrasing she seeks and regularly finds. Her descriptions constitute what I want to call intelligence — someone in the act of getting the world right, making it ours as well as hers. In her “Ode to the Brown Pelican,” she writes, “…today I catch you/on your own swimming the air / with the equanimity of a leaf, / immune to high ambition, / but alert to small, / quick opportunities.” Such opportunities, taken advantage of, are Cohen’s achievement, which is considerable, and, dare I say, give “high ambition” a good name.” – Stephen Dunn
“A clear, distinctive voice and developed imagination leads us through Susan Cohen’s A Different Wakeful Animal where she works her way into loss with the movement and song of the many creatures she evokes. There are birds innumerable and arrayed, dragonflies, and frogs, but the speaker, too, is animaled, as are we all. We are reminded of this truth by death and desire, which is to say hunger, and this very human speaker who cannot give in or doesn’t totally trust this animal-side. This tightly-knit collection of poems asks us to interrogate our humanity, looking to find what has become taloned, what has become plumed.” – Dorianne Laux
“A sense of just proportion distinguishes the best writers, and Susan Cohen, a poet with a world view and a firm and unassuming vision for our place within it, demonstrates that sense. No matter where her vision alights, she illuminates a scene; whether it be the irreparable damage of a firestorm that consumes her family’s world, or the eeriness of a southern California night that skulks her north, she shadows her curiosity to the place where the unknown opens, if not to clarity, to fruition. Refusing to lead her reader into the dark basement of poetry to aimlessly wander by association, she composes with such precision that the deepest mysteries of contemporary life become companionable, and the companionship becomes that of a wise and trusted friend.” – Sandra Alcosser