Becoming Poet: Peter Cooley


We’re honored to have had the chance to chat with the talented emerging poet Peter Cooley, author of ten poetry collections and numerous essays, former editor of The North American Review, and poet laureate of Louisiana—here’s what he has to say about his journey of becoming poet.



What’s your relationship to rejection? What was the best one you received? The worst?

Peter Cooley: It’s so consistently here. I’m used to it. The best: “We love your work and hope to publish some of it soon.” (They never did, even after my repeated attempts.) The worst (she is dead, bless her soul): ” Mr. Cooley, why do you even try to write poetry.”


When did you start calling yourself a poet and why?

PC:Yesterday? Tomorrow? I think writing poetry is just so much fun, so that must mean I am a poet.



What was the journey of getting your first book The company of strangers published?

PC: Interesting question: I was young and stubborn. I sent the ms. out to numerous contests and publishers. I just kept trying.


How do you climb out of a dry spell of writing?

PC: I make myself write by using exercises I have tested in class: take five words out of any book and write a poem on them; write from the point of view of the opposite gender in a different time period and different country; write from the point of view of an inanimate object.


What’s part of your job as a poet that would surprise most people?

PC: Probably how boring (to them) my life is. I get up in the morning and have a cup of coffee; then, on my second cup, I make myself write something. I look out the window at the darkness coming to light, literally, and in myself figuratively.

I have three kids; I drive an SUV and live in a sort of working class suburb.


What was your darkest moment as a poet?

PC: My answer would be part of question 3. I think that period getting the first book accepted, the time right before it was accepted, when I kept getting ” almosts” from publishers was the worst. I was in my early thirties, so I could take it.



How do you keep writing?

PC: I just keep showing up every  morning.