Texas A&M University-San Antonio alumna Brigid Cooley has debuted her poetry collection “family recipes.”
Cooley graduated in December of 2020 with a bachelor’s in communication. She currently lives in Georgetown, Texas, where she teaches poetry workshops and works with at-risk youth.
Cooley offers a raw yet elegant perspective of herself, her past, and events told within the moment or through recollection. This book weaves between childhood memories recontextualized with her current state of mind and abstract portrayals of specific events in Cooley’s life.
Cooley’s underlying theme is the strength of being vulnerable. Cooley lets the reader peer into her moments of unease and fragility but the tone is never melancholic. Even if the poem itself portrays a harrowing experience, the reader can infer that she has grown from it.
Each poem feels like a piece of Cooley is on the page. Her reflections aren’t therapy sessions but a journey that guides the reader through Cooley’s eyes and feelings. Moreover, not every poem is steeped in a high concept metaphor. A strength that shines is her ability to provide a topic grounded in relatability but still convey a meaningful message.
In her poem “from one woman to another,” the subject is reassuring a woman that she will weather the storm of a break-up.
“no matter how badly he broke your heart
even if your soul shattered into pieces when he left
please whatever you do
don’t impulsively ask your hairdresser to give you bangs”
This is a genuine piece of advice that doesn’t need to be presented as a poem, but since it is, the sentiment is more impactful.
Cooley uses fragmented stanzas to highlight various points or words within the poem to illustrate the tone she wants.
In the poem “january,” her stanzas are centered. This gives Cooley the opportunity to add visual representation to emphasize the meaning of a word:
“i was raised Catholic,
but love that i am a Capricorn
“Cold” is isolated in its own line, enhancing the somber tone of the word and its place within the poem.
In fact, Cooley lets the poems take any form with no firm structure. The page acts as a canvas while her words paint a vivid picture of both the meaning of the poem and the scene it’s setting.
Her diction is precise, and most of her sentences are short and to the point. No use of figurative language overstays its welcome nor does the message ever lose itself within the poem. Every point ends where it should.
A key theme that recurs throughout the collection is family. There are multiple instances where Cooley will retell events involving her family members or even focus on specific individuals. The title “family recipes” feels literal. It’s as if these poems are the ingredients of what makes Cooley the person she is. Each lesson gained is what brought her to who is today.
Cooley is able to step outside herself to attain a better perspective on how the world affects her and the people around her. When she is the observer in a poem, her gaze is objective and curious—not surprising for someone who worked as a newspaper reporter in Marble Falls and Georgetown after graduating from A&M-San Antonio.
This will be Cooley’s first collection of poems and was published August 9 by publishing company Kelsay Books.
The collection is available for purchase on the Kelsay Books website for $20.
If you’re looking for a sincere and candid collection that warms the heart as much as it makes it ache, Brigid Cooley might have the right recipe for you.