In previous volumes David Cooke has explored his family origins in the West of Ireland and his upbringing in an Irish family in Berkshire. Grounded in experience, his poems have frequently explored questions of belief and identity in a wide-ranging historical context. In A Murmuration, his fourth collection, there are further poems evoking his Catholic adolescence: dancing at a teenage disco or listening to the blues in the ruins of a medieval abbey. There are poems too that look back to the early days of his marriage.
Yet from the outset we find a new concern to go beyond appearances, to read landscapes, and explore the blurred frontiers where nature and civilization merge. A late masterpiece by Bruegel or a wildlife documentary hint at how superficial the veneer of civilisation may be. A sequence of poems exploring the landscape and history of Malta is informed by both his own lost faith and his daughter’s conversion to Islam. Frequently praised for the clarity and musicality of his verse, Cooke is an accessible yet nonetheless ambitious poet who does not shy before intractable themes.