Malcolm Cook

What Grit and Dust Upon My Face

Review by April Pameticky

CoverPoet: Malcolm Cook
Artists: Diana Brewster, Christina Carlson, Laura Rene Baker, & James Jandt

Matthew Dalziel,  when speaking about his collaboration with Louise Scullion, said “The most liberating thing is breaking away from that myth of the artist as ‘special unique individual’ – the solitary Kafka-like personality working away on their own and in suffering… it is far more enjoyable to discuss ideas with someone who has also invested in the work.”  As creatives, we often find liberation in collaboration and cooperation, in the exchange between one form and another.

In Malcolm Cook’s debut chapbook, readers see the delicate pairing of paintings and sketches with Cook’s poetry.  It is unusual to see work shared like this in the chapbook format, which is partly what makes it such a delight. Cook acknowledges that some poems were written ekphrastically, but some pairings were exchanges, dialogues in a back-and-forth exchange.

The collection of 7 poems (one poem is in 3 parts) also includes 10 works of art.  On a glossy-finish, light-weight paper, the artwork is in full-color. The first pairing shared below:

On These Occasions

russet knees lean out to touch the flow
akimbo though, these banks and trees
arms in bramble, lapse of leaves
long shadows these, invite my eyes
-to amble, with streaks of dark
-to amble, yes converging dark
-to amble, with orange light dark
no leaves
to amble on and aimless

Malcolm Cook

(art by Diana Brewster) 

Both the poem and the golden glow of the artwork that accompanies it, invite the reader to take a leisurely stroll through the chapbook.  There’s a delight and a joy, despite the title that implies the world has been harsh–grit and dust wiped carefully away.

That’s not to say that there aren’t shades of wistfulness and regret here.  Though short, the collection still satisfies with strong image, like in “Wishful Thinking:” “Were I an ocarina made of clay…” and later, “Were we a jar of Eastern spice…” Each line leading the reader through a series of poignant moments, admonishing the reader to remember that “this is not a still life… / and there is no vanishing point on this flat horizon.”

If you would like to see the poet read the title poem of this collection, visit Cook’s “What Grit and Dust Upon My Face.

For purchase: Visit Grit and Dust Press

From his about the Poet: Malcolm Cook’s earliest poetic memories are of reciting to his big brother, on an uptown bus, verse inspired by King Friday, of Mr. Rogers neighborhood.  He hopes to regain those critical sensibilities.  He lives in Leawood, Kansas.

April Pameticky currently serves as the managing editor of River City Poetry.  Visit to learn more.