True Art

You paint your face

in ways handed down over the years

and learned through hours

of careful study,

and you say

you’re not into art

because nobody ever told you

that’s what this is.


You play a game

with a story

as complex as a

Greek tragedy,

as compelling as film,

and you say

you’re not into art

because nobody ever told you

that’s what this is.


Nobody ever told you

God is not a

fearsome old man,

but a child with a paintbrush,

holding each of us up in turn,

and, needing no critic,


“It’s beautiful.

It’s exactly

what I wanted it

to be.”



I hope you realize the greatest truth

it took me too long to know:

The smile on my face is real

with or without you here to see.

Turning Turing

My mind’s a loon beneath the moon,

turning paranoia on and off

like so many millions of ones and zeros

though I know I’m much more

than a mere machine.

Science to me is no killer

but an enhancer

of mystery.

We seek to explain

the terrors of our brains

and some turn away in disgust

as the questions multiply

with lepine fury

but that’s what makes my eyes gleam


what some see as the terror of this moon,

for if life is a book

why skip to the last page?




I didn’t realize I could get one,

thought it’s some secret club.

Was told I wasn’t allowed.

Told my feelings are invalid,

but others are allowed to complain about me

and they sure did

when they knew I would take it;

when they knew I’d say nothing

because I thought I wasn’t allowed;

thought I had to please everyone

and take abuse with a smile.

Those days are behind me.

I got my membership card

many lied to me and said

I wasn’t eligible for.

I went to the counter

to the front of the line;

said I’ve had enough,

it’s time for a big switch.

I’m finally picking up

my license to bitch.

You are a phoenix.

I know you won’t believe this, but

one day

the fire in your heart and your eyes and your soul will burn so bright

no one will be able to ignore how you shine:

not even you.

Everyone will notice,

even those who used to torment you, and when those people come to you

and say they always knew you’d do this

you will know they are lying;

you will look them in the eye and say,

“If you knew,

all those times I needed someone

to comfort me,

to believe in me,

to awaken my potential…

you would have been there.”

And you’ll walk away

into the new joyful life

you created

without them.

poem by Angela Cook, 2017


To My Teenage Self

At the end of May in 2017 you will
have survived much worse than this.
You will wake
and love the warm weather
your allergies assert themselves,
a headache is nothing as a price of happiness.
You will boil water to mix with honey and lemon.
Inhaling the aroma,
you will just begin to heartily agree with your record player
that yes, only the good die young,
your phone will ring to nothing but
a wrong number.
You will allow yourself a little sarcasm in saying
you have no idea who they’re asking for.

You will tell the young Billy Joel
“Blame it all on yourself” is
an unhealthy relationship model
and someone who really was always a woman
would have told him so
but you’ll think he seems to
be doing alright
despite the pain of his years,
and you’re not that far yet,
but so are you.

The pain I am writing to you from within
will soften enough for
a barefoot jaunt in the front yard,
for stray liquid droplets upon your arm
to whisper that
the greatest heat will
always be broken by rain;
for you to smile at the reminder that
all kinds of weather have their music.

poem by Angela Cook, 2017

Be my classmate in this free online writing course that starts tomorrow!

On May 15, 2017, the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa will open Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Fiction and Nonfiction, a free massive open online course. This creative writing MOOC will focus on writing about identities, communities, and social issues in fiction and nonfiction. There is no cost to enroll; registration is completely free for all participants. No writing experience is required. This MOOC welcomes writers of all communities and identities.

I’m excited about this course! There’s another one for poetry and plays coming up in July.

Not that anyone needs a class to be a writer…but you can learn some rules of writing, if only to learn how to break them. Feedback can always be helpful, too, though I encourage you to learn to develop your own writing style and stick to your guns when necessary. Remember most, if not all, famous writers waded through many rejection slips.