Category Archives: CPR Volume 16, Issue 3

Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 3, July, 2014

Adam After the Hurricanes: Foraging for Hope in the Aftermath of Storms in Peter Cooley’s Night Bus to the Afterlife

Reviewed by Anne Babson

Night Bus to the Afterlife
Night Bus to the Afterlife
by Peter Cooley
(2014, Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series)
$15.95 Paper
ISBN: 9780887485770

Many communities in the South have recently drowned in storms. Climate change engenders a need for Southerners to find a “new normal,” nowhere more than in New Orleans after Katrina. Peter Cooley, in his new collection, Night Bus to the Afterlife (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2014) seeks this new equilibrium and finds some poetic answers to questions wrought by recent disruptions.

Much poetry in the initial aftermath of Katrina simply documented the enormity of losses, as did the poem “Debris” by Peter Cooley’s daughter, Nicole Cooley, another accomplished poet: “…a football helmet     the face of a metal fan          a sign: Demolition Alert….”

Inventory is the first reckoning for sudden tragedy. Cities where storms have hit—New Orleans, Tuscaloosa, Edmonton—begin to comprehend tragedy by simply making lists. So it may be with poetry. However, Katrina happened almost a decade ago, and both New Orleans and Peter Cooley have had time to reflect. After an initial shock, it becomes possible to imagine how one may survive despite all. In “To Christ Our Lord: September 2, 2005,” he writes, “Obviously, some great lesson is at hand, / Christ, which has escaped me yet. Rush it here.”

Christological imagery abounds in this volume of poetry, just as any visitor to New Orleans will find crosses, steeples, and mausolea. But for Cooley, who is a Christian, these images are not merely detritus from crumbling edifices but keys to unlock answers to large questions of theodicy. In “Adam After the Hurricanes,” he writes of the first man, fallen, who tells himself:

For my moment in time I will be calm,

Won’t I, black morning, you who came to me

After last night’s hurricane, who are dead

As I know life, your slate face like a grave.

It would be wrong, however, to classify Cooley’s work as symbolist. He writes like Wallace Stevens if Stevens believed in God, and his allegiances to the modern and post-modern appear here. This collection references Yeats and even Warhol, who imagined a telephone by which members of his pop scene might converse with God. Cooley reimagines this as a sign of impending death in “Telephone Ringing in the Afterlife”: “I know this pull, out toward oblivion… / Someday that pull will call for me—I’ll go.”

It would be wrong to read Cooley’s “new normal” as nihilist. Despite obvious devastation, Cooley finds a type of comfort, of joy, even, as we read in “The Third Heaven: August 30, 2005”:

Only one thing was clear: someone was in the room,

Someone larger than rooms and hurricanes,

Someone who shone brighter than any sun…

Now, years later, I still have changing sight.

Some may find such determined optimism in the face of real destruction problematic, but to embrace despair is a twentieth-century literary trope, and Cooley is a twenty-first century poet writing about contemporary matters. He opens the possibility of finding meaning in the tragedies that defy easy understanding—and this may emerge as the greatest purpose of poetry in our stormy era.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 3.


Anne Babson was nominated for the Pushcart for work in The Haight- Ashbury Literary Journal and Illya’s Honey. Her work has been published in the US, in England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Turkey.

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A Brief History of Mine
by Nancy Carol Moody

I am driving around the night

in a pickup truck
with no lights in the dash.

A 70 mile-per-hour egg, and I am its yolk.

Or maybe not 70. Without illumination,
how to reckon one’s own speed?

—wind like spinning tires carving ruts in my hair.

—skin peeling back,
one indiscernible layer at a time.

No. That was someone else’s story.

I was the tire jack wrapped in cloth, content
to lie with the lug wrench in the hold.

A case of flares, fuses unlit.

The pair of yellow eyes mounted up front, not
vision enough for secondary roads

like cindered carpets rolling out ahead.

All around me was crackle,
transpicuous shell

I might have accelerated straight on through.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 3.

Nancy Carol MoodyNancy Carol Moody lives in Eugene, Oregon, and is the author of Photograph With Girls (Traprock Books). Her poems have appeared in The Journal, Salamander, The New York Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review and Nimrod. Nancy can be found online at

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When I Left for You
by Maggie Blake

At seventy miles an hour,
your absence overtakes
the landscape of burnished
silos, townships, and cheap
diesel, the horizon of heat
lightening, dirty Ohio rivers.

You cannot see inside me
to the bird bones that keep
me barely tethered and hollow,
the strings that run inside
are not musical, not clotheslines,
fishing lines, or thread. What I want

you cannot give. Any more than I
can eat my disobedient hands
to keep them from shaking.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 3.

placesaverMaggie Blake’s work has appeared in The Southern Poetry Anthology, Tar River, Slipstream, and elsewhere. Her review of Jane Hirshfield’s Come, Thief is available now in Flycatcher.

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