In Karin Cope’s debut collection, What We’re Doing to Stay Afloat, she employs a crisp, poetic precision to contrast and contain her potent and unpredictable snapshots of modern rural life. Her poems reveal a visceral tension between a longing for realization and an involuntary, almost compulsive destruction of its potential.
The poet’s use of paradox illustrates her speaker’s scathing capacity for insight, amidst a simultaneous depiction of their myopic shortcomings. As the collection progresses, there is a yearning for greater wisdom, a bird’s eye view that might save us – and the natural world – from the limited scope of our vision.
Cope’s words evoke the feeling of being lost, and found again, sometimes within a single image. She achieves a rare balance between sacredness and irreverence; each poem is at once quietly affecting and playfully persistent.
The reader is guided through a rugged, natural landscape where a hopeful realism emerges, one that suggests that despite our confusion, our paradox, we are capable of great dignity, of love. What We’re Doing To Stay Afloat is a masterful examination of what is at stake in our modern efforts to survive, and is a testament to the role of poetry in the face of it.