St. Thomas University student Sarah Cooper launched her first book, a compilation of poetry titled Of Feathers and Fire, encircled by a diverse group of students, friends and professors on Friday.
“This is the first [book] launch, within my living memory anyway, that celebrates a book written by a student,” said Michael Dawson, a history professor who introduced the book.
It was a two-year process for Cooper, who was once a science student on Prince Edward Island, but now takes creative writing at STU. She would write most often when listening to music or being outside. She said she never expected to be published though.
“It feels really incredible. I never expected this to happen. I didn’t start writing with any intention to be published,” she said.
Cooper was diagnosed with major depressive disorder in high school and this book is a culmination of her experiences. The poems are short and simple, but Deirdre Kessler, the poet laureate of P.E.I., said their simplicity is often deceptive.
A statement by Kessler on the back of the book reads, “She takes us straight to the skin, under the skin, and into the terrain of the heart and to the depths of what many call mental illness.”
Sarah said the road to getting published began when she met John Flood one night at a pub.
Flood, a publisher, was getting drinks with Kessler when Cooper approached them. After talking for a while, they invited Cooper to a house party where she read some of her poetry. After hearing some samples, Flood soon became interested. He consulted her, looking at more of her work, and soon, he and Kessler were looking through her manuscripts and began organizing it into a book structure. They intended to publish it.
“These poems are a way of escaping, but also of discovering who she is,” said Flood.
He said he admires her confidence in reading her poems as well, which he finds brings forward a special quality to them.
“[There’s] a sense of authenticity in her own writing.”
Cooper brought that authenticity to the Brian Mulroney Hall rotunda while presenting her book. In her presentation, she supplied backstories and thoughtful tidbits before reading each selected poem. The audience listened intently.
“It inspires me to pursue my own writing,” said fellow student Spencer Folkins.
Cooper is currently working on her second book, another compilation of poetry with some added prose. Even though she wouldn’t reveal the theme of her next book, she is excited to continue writing and publishing new work.
“I’m just excited for my future and continuing.”