The multiple definitions of Casting Off (unmooring a boat, releasing a hunting dog, finishing the final row of knitting) seem to serve as a lodestar for this collection. Rose Cook is determined to write in a variety of styles and subjects, and not to lapse into the samey or predictable. When she hits the right note it is a winning goal.

    ‘The Way Freedoms are Dreamt’ builds in an accretion of sharp detail to an image of liberation in the rhythms and textures of the sea: 

          Only the turn of waves, the spread

          of spilt cream, the heave and arch,

          gathering in preparation to dive. 

The longer poems work well in this way, as do some of the shorter pieces, particularly ‘To Wake up in the Morning and Be Happy for No Reason at All’, ‘In Silence’ and ‘Flight’, the latter a passionate description of the mechanics of flying reminiscent of ‘The Windhover’: 

          There’s the sudden decision

          the plough of feet

          neck held straight

          the insistent agony of wings 

    But these moments can seem swamped by multiple, somewhat tepid re-workings of the mother and daughter relationship and an annoying tendency to gimmick poems. These five poems (‘I Want You’ and ‘In Case of Emergency Throw Lifebelt’ are typical) rely on a single gag, repeated with listless variation, or an obvious conceit:



          Knock knock

          Who’s there?

          You have a very interesting knocker.


    This variation seemed to me quite distracting, especially when the poet is so obviously capable of beautiful lines—“love as sturdy/as a white enamel bin filled with bread” (‘To Wake Up …’) or “a chain of grey geese” (‘In Silence’). Casting Off has within it a handful of excellent poems, but perhaps the poet should have set a few more free before making her work public.


James Roderick Burns