Cooper, Wyn 1957-
Cooper, Wyn 1957-
Born January 2, 1957, in Detroit, MI; son of William Wendell (a tool-and-die specialist) and Maree Edith Cooper (a teacher's aide). Education: University of Utah, B.A., 1979; Hollins College, M.A., 1981; also attended University of Utah's creative writing doctoral program.
Home—Halifax, VT. E-mail—[email protected]
Poet, writer, editor, and songwriter. Quarterly West, Salt Lake City, UT, editor-in-chief, 1983-85; Bennington College, Bennington, VT, teacher and editor, 1989-94; Marlboro College, Marlboro, VT, professor, 1993-96; Wyn Cooper Music, Brattleboro, VT, founder and owner, 1995—; freelance writer, 1996—. Also director of reading series at North Bennington Independent Artist's Space, 1992-95; helps run the Brattleboro Literary Festival, VT, 2002—; teacher at the Frost Place.
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Poetry Society of America, Academy of American Poets, Authors Guild.
Ucross Foundation writing fellow, 1988; Snow Line Award, Pacific International, 1993; nominated for a Grammy Award, Song of the Year category, 1995, for All I Wanna Do (song producers and performers won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Female Rock Vocal); Pop Music award, American Academy of Composers, Authors and Publishers, 1996.
The Country of Here Below, Ahsahta Press (Boise, ID), 1987.
The Way Back, White Pine Press (Buffalo, NY), 2000.
Secret Address: [Postcard Poems] (chapbook), Chapiteau Press (South Stafford, VT), 2002.
Postcards from the Interior, BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 2005.
Contributor of poems to anthologies, including The Mercury Reader, Outsiders, and Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms. Contributor of poetry to periodicals, including Poetry, Ploughshares, Crazyhorse, Agni, and the Southern Review.
(Author of lyrics, with Kevin Gilbert, David Baerwald, Bill Bottrell, and Sheryl Crow) All I Wanna Do (song), performed by Sheryl Crow on the Tuesday Night Music Club album, A&M Records (Los Angeles, CA), 1993.
(Author of lyrics) Forty Words for Fear (album), music by Madison Smartt Bell, Gaff Music (New York, NY), 2003.
(Author of lyrics) Postcards Out of the Blue (album), music by Madison Smartt Bell, DogJaw Records (Baltimore, MD), 2008.
Author's poems have been adapted as lyrics for musical compositions, including "Fun," recorded as All I Wanna Do by Sheryl Crow; "Opal, Wyoming," recorded by David Broza; and "Bozo, Weirdo, Wacko, Creep," recorded by David Baerwald.
Wyn Cooper is a poet who wrote his first book of poems, The Country of Here Below, while he was in graduate school. Although only five hundred copies of the book were printed initially, a copy landed in the hands of singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow, whose keyboardist and producer picked up Cooper's first book as part of several poetry books he and Crow consulted to find ideas for lyrics. Cooper was asked if his poem "Fun" could be used for the song with some minor alterations. "I was so happy someone had actually read my book that I instantly said yes," Cooper noted in an interview for People. "I didn't even think about the fact that they would pay me." The song ultimately reached number two on the Billboard charts, won two Grammy Awards, and led to Cooper's further collaborations with other musicians.
While Cooper has gained some renown as a songwriter, he remains primarily a poet who "seemingly enjoys pushing the boundaries between forms," as noted by Southern Review contributor Beth Bachmann. His first book of poetry, The Country of Here Below, was published in 1987. The author did not produce another book of poems until 2000 with The Way Back, which features Cooper's wry humor.
Postcards from the Interior, published in 2005, features free verse, formal verse, and prose poetry. The "postcards" in the title refer to the book's postcard-style poems that are ostensibly "sent" from various places. In the first section, the author features poems that focus on Vermont towns and numerous Vermont historical landmarks. In the second section, the poems feature various other settings, some real and some imagined. "Postcards from the Interior mashes-up interior Vermont against the interior United States, physical landscapes against the landscapes of Hell, Dream, Desire, and Independence, as well as verse versus prose," noted Bachmann in the Southern Review. She concluded: "The voice behind these postcards finds its home in the call for simplicity, the paring back. Cooper's voice is familiar, falling into the cadences of plain-speech poetics; even though the postcards are left unsigned, we recognize the voice of the traveler coming to terms with an unfamiliar environment."
Cooper is also a collaborator with novelist Madison Smartt Bell for the CD titled Forty Words for Fear. The songs are based on poems and lyrics by Cooper that were set to music by Bell, who also sings the songs. The collaboration came about due to a novel Bell was writing titled Anything Goes. Bell needed lyrics for songs that the novel's struggling rock band sings. Bell asked his longtime friend to see if he could come up with lyrics. "He sent me the novel," Cooper stated in an interview for Weekend Edition Saturday. "I read it twice through to really get inside the characters' heads. And then I wrote one lyric, and I mailed it off to him to see what he thought. And less than a week later I had a cassette in the mail." The cassette was the result of Bell's admiration for Cooper's lyrics, leading the amateur musician to set them to music. "The album received high praise from music critics, even though some initially doubted the writers-turned-rockers," noted the author of a profile of Cooper for Poets.org. Songs from the album have been featured on five television shows.
The duo followed the success of Forty Words for Fear with a second album titled Postcards Out of the Blue in 2008. This album is based in part on Cooper's poetry collection Postcards from the Interior.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
ForeWord, May, 2005, Duncan Sprattmoran, review of Postcards from the Interior.
Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1994, Ajay Sahgal, "The Poet and the Rock Star," author profile.
News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), April 28, 2006, "Talk about Writing and Songwriting," author profile.
People, November 28, 1994, "Pop Goes the Prof," author profile, p. 134.
Southern Review, March 22, 2006, Beth Bachmann, "Re-Collections," includes review of Postcards from the Interior, p. 451.
West Branch, number 60, spring- summer, 2007, Sarah Kennedy, "Darkness Visible: Five Books of American Poetry," review of Postcards from the Interior.
Writer's Chronicle, March-April, 2006, Volume 38, number 5, "Troubadours and Bards: Poetry and Music Featuring an Interview with Wyn Cooper."
AGNI Online,http://www.bu.edu/agni/ (August 28, 2008), brief profile of author.
Bell and Cooper MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/bellandcooper (September 15, 2008), profile of author.
Poets.org,http://www.poets.org/ (August 28, 2008), profile of author.
Wyn Cooper Home Page,http://www.wyncooper.com (August 28, 2008), author profile.
Weekend Edition Saturday (radio), (August 2, 2003), "Literary Songwriting."