Cooper pours his heart onto the page in this debut, which is unequal parts autobiography, poetry, and self-help aimed at those who have struggled or are struggling with questions of sexuality, love, and belonging.
The author intersperses his chronologically told memoir with poetry. Small silhouettes mark places the author considers to be good candidates for moments of reflection. The book begins with a short anecdote about Cooper’s family and a poem considering the connection between a mother and the child in her womb. The work continues to track the author through the 1950s and ’60s, exploring his struggles with mental illness, coming out, and healing. Each experience unfolds as a sketch rather than a detailed account. The discovery of the sexual thrill of cross-dressing, for example, unfolds in a single line: “At the age of fifteen, I experienced an erotic arousal by wearing women’s clothing.” The poems are predominantly blank verse with some small variation in stanzas and line groupings and little to no observable rhyme or use of assonance, etc.: “He had no identity, / Except the one he created for himself, / Forged fearfully / In the fires of hell.” The spare prose effectively limns Cooper’s difficult past; a childhood lived without affection is somehow made more heart-rending when starkly portrayed. And while his work may incorporate elements of self-help, such as the later chapter with advice on intimacy, it’s first and foremost, as Cooper states, a book of poetry reflecting personal experience.
A thoughtful retrospective offering an unusual look at bisexuality from a poetic and historic angle.