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Common Life
Robert Cording

2006 • 132 pp. 6 x 9 1/4"

$16.00 Paperback, 978-0-9723045-7-3

Common Life looks at the various meanings of common, especially its senses of familiar and widely known; belong or relating to the community at large; and its twinned notions of simple and rudimentary and vulgar and profane. The book’s perspective is religious, and is grounded in the epigraph from the Psalms: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” The “waiting” that is required has to do with three things: first, our desire, as Charles Wright puts it, “to believe in belief” rather than believe; secondly, the need for a setting aside of the self, an abandonment of “every attempt to make something of oneself, even…a righteous person” in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer; and thirdly, the “waiting” must be as Eliot wrote in the Four Quartets a waiting “without hope for hope would be hope of the wrong thing.” If we learn to wait in these ways, the final section of the book suggests that we have the chance of opening ourselves to all that is graceful within life’s common bounds.

Reviews / Endorsements

“Robert Cording has a profound sense of the fissure that separates self and soul in present day America. He . . . is a crucial poet, one who shows that our unflinching love can withstand our abiding fear.” —Baron Wormser

“Yehuda Amichai once divided poets into two categories: those with kishkas (guts) and those without. The latter type, he said, usually devised some justifying theory for their work, though they seldom touch the human heart. There's no question which group fits Robert Cording, who is as much amused, baffled, and enchanted by the spiritual world as by the physical one he knows so intimately. Among scores of nonpareil poems here, there's an especially brilliant one called 'The Weeper.' And so full of kishkas is Common Life that its author might be dubbed 'the weep-inducer.' Here is not only stunning poetry, but also poetry linked to things that matter.”—Sydney Lea

From the Book:

The name his followers gave Ignatius, who wept
While saying mass, or while listening to the coos
Of a common dove. Ignatius never knew
When his throat would tighten, a wave of sobs
Breaking him open as he stood watching clouds
Move in the wide gaze of the sky, or passed a boy
Climbing a pine, lost in the play of his body.
Yet it wasn't the reverie of blue sky and clouds,
Nor even the boy's self-forgetful happiness
That brought on those tears beyond his control.
These days, when passion is cooled by irony,
When we try to live as if each day were
Predictable and self determined, when God
And the soul are off-limits, how can we understand
Such abandonment in a man who wept
Almost daily-not because of the time he'd wasted
Or would waste, not because of his weak stomach
Or his leg's old war injury, or because he'd given up
The feel of trembling flesh along the inner curve
Of a woman's thigh or the full, idle hours
Spent in his father's castle. Not even because of
The wearied and hopeless poor whom he met
On every road and went among in cities.
He wept, they say, because he'd suddenly feel
Entirely empty, and utterly grateful, all the doors
Of his heart, which was and was not his
At these moments, and which we know
Only as metaphor, swung wide open, able now
To receive and find room for all the world's
Orphaned outpourings and astonishments

From "The Weeper"

ROBERT CORDING, a native of New Jersey and currently teaching at Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, has published over 300 poems in various literary magazines such as The New Yorker, American Scholar, Gettysburg Rcview, and Kenyon Review. In 1998, he was co-editor of an anthology of poems, essay and fiction on the Beatles. Awards range from a Bread Loaf Fellowship in poetry; New England Review’s Narrative Poetry Prize; Poet-in-Residence at The Frost Place; National Endowment for the Fellowship in Poetry; Judge for Connecticut Commission On the Arts Fellowships, 2000; Pushcart Prize; Holy Cross Teaching Award; Chautauqua Teaching Award for best workshop; and Judge for Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize.

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 11:52:41 -0500