“Only So Far is a perfectly wonderful book. I say 'perfectly' not as a gush word but because, true to its etymology from perfectus, 'thoroughly made, accomplished, fully realized,' the... [continued in Reviews below]”—David Ferry,
Only So Far moves between hope and despair, between absence and presence, as it charts its way toward an unreachable promised land
In Only So Far, Cording’s poetry vacillates between complaint and praise, lamenting and loving our “sowre-sweet dayes” as George Herbert’s poem “Bittersweet” puts it. Behind the book lies the story of the Promised Land that Moses never quite reaches, and those “little daily miracles” that Virginia Woolf says stand in as a kind of recompense for the “great revelation” that never does come.
Poets and poetry readers will embrace Cording’s eighth book of poems. His work is of interest to librarians and ministers in seminary programs.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“Only So Far is a perfectly wonderful book. I say 'perfectly' not as a gush word but because, true to its etymology from perfectus, 'thoroughly made, accomplished, fully realized,' the book is one thoroughly, fully realized poem after another, his voice and its language seeking out the importance of even such a slight thing as breaking open a leaf of mint and experiencing its clean sweet smell, and finding its meaning in these lines, 'believing for a moment / that the past can be present / again, and history says more / than nothing lasts, and somehow / my life, unfinished, uncertain, / like a secret inside a secret, / is part of what is, like this mint, / pulled upward by the light, / by the day which only knows / again and again, to begin.' And there's the one about the moment of sunset in a Florida sea, where the genially described vanities of cocktail sunset human conversation are silenced by what's seen in these lines: 'So much time is lost trying to agitate / the envies of others and monitor one's own— / the thought that crossed my mind as I watched / six pelicans rise and fall with the water's flux. /The winds had quieted, and just before the sun plunged / below the sea, the pelicans rose in a wind-hung line / and flew off, silent as a council of gods / in the pinkish sky. Palm trees scratched / their cuneiform shadows on the sand.' Peerless lines, perfectly wonderful. And perfectly characteristic of the powers of utterance in this wonderful book. Over and over, in this book, such gifts are offered. The quiet voice in these poems, calmly studying its own experience, cannot avoid the knowledge of its own mastery and its capacity to offer such pleasures. Hence the beautiful serene authority of tits writing, its versification, its syntactical elegance.”—David Ferry
“Robert Cording's poems are so stripped-down, so lacking in affectation they almost fly beneath the radar. Almost. Except for the fact that every few stanzas, every few lines, something strobes forth to make us catch our breath: an arrow of wit, a shot of pure sorrow, the ripple of an apparently effortless interior rhyme. Cording weds eye to heart and intellect to mystery with a power that devastates, arouses, and not infrequently delivers startling consolation.”—Leah Hager Cohen
From the Book:
Last evening, another sunset party:
drinks, laughs, ironies, hidden desires.
All of us tanned and glowing, we exchanged
jokes and gossips, fresh and stale, self-conscious
that something larger was missing
when we turned to best watches, shoes, cigars.
So much time is lost trying to agitate
the envies of others and monitor one's own—
the thought that crossed my mind as I watched
six pelicans rise and fall with the water's flux.
The winds had quieted, and just before the sun plunged
below the sea, the pelicans rose in a wind-hung line
and flew off, silent as a council of gods
in the pinkish sky. Palm trees scratched
their cuneiform shadows on the sand.
I wanted to say something about the pelicans,
which I knew, for no known reason, choose to live
their lives as near total mutes, as if they've decided
simply to be done with the fecklessness of speaking,
but I kept quiet, the light draining from the sky,
the others going inside. I felt like a child in hiding,
alone on the deck, made fearful and alive
by the darkened Gulf, the stretch of beach
now entirely empty, the palm trees,
the sliver of moon rising directly opposite
of where the sun had set. If I had been called
to come in, I would have kept silent.
ROBERT CORDING teaches English and creative writing at College of the Holy Cross where he is Professor of English and Barrett Professor of Creative Writing. He has published seven collections of poems: Life-list (Ohio State University Press/Journal award, 1987); What Binds Us to This World (Copper Beech Press, 1991); Heavy Grace, (Alice James, l996); Against Consolation (CavanKerry, 2002); Common Life, (CavanKerry, 2006); Walking with Ruskin (CavanKerry, 2010); and A Word in My Mouth: Selected Spiritual Poems (Wipf and Stock, 2013).