The Broken Places – Saddle Road Press, 2021
Sandy Coomer’s second full-length collection of poems is a cataloguing of broken moments within relationships, identity, the body, and the world. She writes, “Is it anyone’s fault / this world has teeth?” These poems skip across the human condition like a stone on water, touching relatable and specific moments with vivid imagery: “This is not rare & I am not / a spectacle carrying grief this way, over my shoulder, though it spills / thick & red down my back.” From death and mourning to gardens and growth, Coomer gives us poems that reveal, make connections, and remind us we are human.
–Trish Hopkinson, author of Footnote
“If freedom is an illusion, a mirage, a myth, / then this poem is a mirror, a surrender,” writes Sandy Coomer in The Broken Places, a collection that acts as both a mirror for our pain points and a surrender to revelations about ways light resides nested in dark, breakdown accompanies breakthrough, and nature’s radiance salves. With potent imagery, lyrical lines, and bold suppositions, Coomer traverses coming of age, the tragedy of violence, motherhood, mother loss, and the intrusions of illness to explore redemption. Ekphrastic poems featuring Klimt and Degas and poems using villanelle and mirror line structures round out this unflinching collection.
–Tania Pryputniewicz, author of November Butterfly
Like all visionaries, Sandy Spencer Coomer takes readers with her on a journey from darkness to
light. In the poem “Begonia,” the poet writes “You kneel in the drifting shade/ and try to
understand yourself, which means to understand humanity.” Sandy Coomer looks clear-eyed at
complex experience—school shootings, racism, sexual misconduct—and doesn’t hesitate to
acknowledge that “We are dangerous together.” This beautifully orchestrated book gives voice to
humanity’s “wildest part” and shows readers how to meet “the hard, blunt face of its blooming.”
Finally, these poems offer us the courage to keep faith with ourselves: “No matter what you
think about our chances/let morning find us iridescent and shimmering.”
–Katherine Smith, author of Woman Alone on the Mountain
Available Light – Iris Press, 2019
Sandy Coomer’s work spans heaven and earth in this new book of poems. A good dreamer, she visits invisible worlds, and shines a lyrical light on this visceral home of ours, this body, this world. “I’m smoke and smite,” she sings, “the bright trill of the whistle and the blink of the crossties.” So much to admire here, to read and reread, by a poet who spends much of her time promoting, nurturing the work of others. It’s surely time for her own work to come into its own, as it does beautifully, gracefully, fiercely, in Available Light.
—Marilyn Kallet, author of How Our Bodies Learned
“What is to give light must endure burning,” writes Viktor Frankl, and as much fire as light flares in Sandy Coomer’s debut collection, Available Light. This painterly, searching work holds aloft its torch of “memory and mercies,” bearing witness to the loves and losses that burn deepest in our “blue-bruised hearts.” Light shifts for better or worse in our lives, just as these poems shine and storm, compelled toward unfailing brilliance.
—Linda Parsons, author of Mother Land and This Shaky Earth
“Unlearn the cage you built / to keep yourself safe… / and let it begin in the breath.” Sandy Coomer’s Available Light dares the reader to enter this collection of visionary and carefully crafted poems, beginning with those who “already see / this world is a balance of shadows.” “The Minotaur’s Last Interview” celebrates a lifetime of experiences, a speaker determined to share both the good and the not-so-good circumstances of this world: “When you write my story, don’t leave out any part of it, even the ending.” In artful lines, these lush poems remind the reader that “I am as close to love as I allow / myself to be” while also urging her to be generous and vulnerable on this journey called life: “So what if my heart is broken. / That’s part of a heart’s job.” Just like the “Visit from my Lost Child” who “unzips my skin, climbs in, wraps his arms / around my heart,” Coomer’s poems masterfully weave around the reader’s heart and linger, long after the cover is closed.
—KB Ballentine, author of Almost Everything, Almost Nothing
Rivers Within Us – Unsolicited Press, 2017
“In Rivers Within Us, Sandy Coomer invites you on a lush and transcendent journey through the nature of life on our planet. You cannot help but be drawn to the sweet, wild mysteries here. Buoyed and soothed by a strong, mystical voice, you move in the wisdom of a lifetime. Skimming above, or submerged in the depths, you experience all the bubbles and eddies, rocks and banks of birth, death, need, and desire. These siren songs will alternately lull, hypnotize, awaken, and chastise you with their beauty, irony, lyricism, reverence, and wonder. This collection is, all at once, boat, guide, water, and “living soul.” You can’t go wrong with these poems. Everything you need is here.”
Suzanne Richter – author of Book of Joy
“I’m relying on language to get by,” Sandy Coomer writes, and if you read only this one line in her poem “Anthem,” you might be fooled by that modest assertion. In truth, Coomer’s doing much more than getting by with language; indeed, Rivers Within Us reveals her ever-solid craftsmanship at a new level of lyricism and intention. Echoing some of the themes in her previous two collections, these poems offer hymns of praise to nature and the landscape of rivers in particular: to willow fronds, minnows, bull frogs, and most of all the “boundless rushing current.” But that current carries much more than pastoral abundance—it also carries death and dreams and wild desire, since, as Coomer writes, a “place is not complete without its people.” Internalizing the landscape and directly examining language, Coomer does her finest work, weaving, for example, the peace of an old graveyard in one poem with “high dead words spilling” in another. Coomer’s world, even when it’s tragic, is a place due reverence. It’s a place where a potato chip Jesus can offer wisdom, where words taste like cinnamon, and where a loon can speak. It’s a place where words matter; where stillness matters; where, with poet as guide, we overcome fear and despair to expect another miracle, to believe her when she says of our human striving, “Yes it matters, yes.”
Kory Wells – author of Heaven was the Moon
The Presence of Absence – Winner of the 2014 Janice Keck Literary Award for Poetry
In the strongest of these fine poems, Coomer pays meticulous attention to small things: “the mutt with the flash of white at his throat, licks watermelon from the grass,” “the mockingbird that rides on the rim of the squall,” “the counters doctored with Kleenex and hand sanitizer,” drawing the reader into what comprises the many lives that populate this book, makes them worth living, gives them meaning. On the trail Coomer tracks, reminders wrought in fresh and arresting images (“ridges of hickory bark,” “mud-slick breath of worms,” a “spider that teaches me life’s fragile pose between living and the dead”) of the minutiae found in these “evanescent” lives, repeatedly illuminate the gratitude Coomer surely feels as she strives to “make small the enormity of life.” The gratitude is contagious.
Victoria Clausi, Associate Director of the Bennington Writing Seminars MFA.
Continuum – Finishing Line Press, 2012
“I marvel at the lyric beauty and depth of feeling in Sandy Coomer’s first book: a master bee keeper woos honey, “bees cover his arms with tawny velvet and lucent wings,” a calf is born “as the sun spreads glitter across the potent land,” and “the mountain whispers out of the hollow the long forgotten remnant that holds us together.” Yet in her prayerful reverence for nature, Coomer’s poems also reveal the truth about mortality – “years squeeze together like one bundled clot of time,” and in one poem, cancer eats an old woman alive “by the burning explosion in her bones.” It’s easy to give fragments of Coomer’s poems to reveal the wonder, the “starburst” of a child’s thoughts, how in a young girls face “the day turns like a fresco painted on the ceiling of the sky,” The poet dreams of a day “when a Bible and a Koran will lie on the same table and neither will be burned.” Her words surprise because they need to be said. Wise, sharp with sensory images, rich with lyrical phrase turns, Coomer’s Continuum deserves a place on your kitchen table, a home beside your reading chair.”
Bill Brown, author of The News Inside and Elemental