"There are chapbooks, and there are chapbooks. And then there is Legion by Eleanor Hooker.
Letterset by hand, crafted in the old style, these 8 poems sing of honeybees and intone the "trembling water of the lake". Eleanor's work is evocative as always, teeming with the profusion of nature and its gifts and the people who interact with these, in good ways and bad. Echoes of Yeats's "bee-loud glade" come to mind, not just because of the theme but for the texture of the language too.
But Eleanor's words focus on the feminine, weaving images like spells cast over the page, words to harness the energy of the natural world that most of us don't understand but that lead the poet "to wheedle with words".
The honeybee with all its associations - productivity, sweet honey, its sting, the drone reproducing only to die - is a charming metaphor for the many dichotomies of life as well as the greed that abounds in society, where the bee-elect is "trapped in the syrup of its own success".
A beautiful artefact made by Hans van Eijk of Bonnefant Press, Maastricht, Holland, with frontispiece by Jeanie Tomanek."
Anamaría Crowe Serrano - poet and author
"This sense of being haunted, or of lving in waking nightmares, recurs in many poems.
Hooker perusades us through the sheer beauty of her imagery, for all its Poe-like darkness.
Hooker's gift is a troubling one; one is charmed and haunted by her poetry in equal measure."
Poetry Ireland Review, August 2017
"In A Tug of Blue, her second collection, one is immediately struck by how defamiliarised the world of her poems seems, an effect achieved as much by the texture of the language she uses as by the unsettling angles at which she approaches her subject matter.
Hooker identifies the pulses of unease and despair, but her poems do not reach for ready consolations.
...there is a Plath-like weight to her phrasing - 'I eat the dark so she can see me' - that presents to us the strangeness of what appears familiar' "
The Furrow July/August 2017
"Eleanor Hooker's second volume of poems, A Tug of Blue, is a volume of striking formal and thematic range that confirms—indeed, exceeds—the promise of her lauded first volume, The Shadow Owner's Companion (2012).
...poems show a studied delight in active intuition borne of skill and experience. Observational pleasures emerge in a precision of form and encyclopedic reference to produce a broad range of tone and structure, spanning from short lyrics and virtuoso formal experiments to "found poems" and prose poems. Formally, Hooker's poems gleam with the polish of a cut gem. Hooker weaves intricate linguistic textures in lines that can prove disorienting but which, at their most effective, also dramatize the topography of internal life with dexterity."
Bryan C. Chitwood -
New Hibernia Review, Volume 21 Summer 2017
"Hooker is indeed a clever poet, drawing us ever deeper into the dark seas of this collection, this tug of blue, as if we ourselves are the ghost ships drifting through her imagination."
Southword, May 2017
"Hooker's poetry flourishes at the intersection between the natural and human worlds, especially within the ecosystem of Lough Derg, with its fish and its ravens."
Poetry Review UK (Spring 2017)
"Uneasy with their own introspection, poems such as Weathering, Upended and Mirrored remind one of Paul Celan and Samuel Beckett in their logical nightmare-scapes. Throw in Edgar Allan Poe for good measure, as Eleanor Hooker has a similar taste for exquisite terror.
Eleanor Hooker’s fervid imaginative powers have bestowed upon her fortunate readers vividly adventurous and challenging poems which demand to be read and read again” (Full review Here)
RTÉ Books, October 2016
[A Tug of Blue] is a beauty, Eleanor, seventy pages of sagacity and lakeside humanism or unitarianism.
You are so aware of near immortal forces at work in water and wind, it makes your work immensely powerful morally as well as aesthetically. You are ever making your way, radioing ahead 'centre your rudder' to those who come to your lyrics; you will always be highly prized in any room of Rankings.
A Tug of Blue is an even more rudder-centred collection, focused, cohering around navigation and rescue, around family and daemons; poetry for you, like the lake, is a tug of blue. It is clean, clear water, it is also a hand-made artisan autumn tray of gifts to the constant reader of poetry. A voyage well taken and a safe landing well achieved, of this I'm certain.
The Launching Party, Dromineer Literary Festival,
"Eleanor Hooker’s A Tug of Blue is a very fine book of gently contained yet forceful poems."
Colin Graham - his favourite books 2016
“The achievements are certainly not orphans in this book; it is teeming with both major and minor poems of really notable excellence and quirky intelligence. Hooker has a brilliantly nurtured and culturally stretched imagination. The Shadow Owner’s Companion is a wonderful collection of poems, bringing both learned and elemental evidence to the printed page for the first time. This is very special work indeed.”
Thomas McCarthy – Poetry Ireland Review
“ ‘The Island’ , a personal favourite and one of the most achieved poems in the collection, is a narrative poised between dream and reality that starts out with the epic assurance of Richard Murphy: […] Yet beyond the poem’s convincing actuality, the narrative is cunningly imagined and ends, impressively, on a note of Yeatsian nostalgia…”
David Cooke – Agenda
“Whether she’s describing a real life rescue or an alternate reality, Hooker has the artistry to anchor each image firmly in her reader’s mind and then to give it a good, star-exploding twist. As an emerging Irish poet, Eleanor Hooker may be destined to make serious waves. Brace yourselves!” Read more
Bridget Sprouls – Southword
“Eleanor Hooker’s debut collection, The Shadow Owner’s Companion, is haunted by childhood memories, and by the fears unleashed by imagination itself. Its poems grapple with the intensity of this material and with its revelatory potential."
Lucy Collins – The Stinging Fly
“The Shadow Owner’s Companion, by Eleanor Hooker, contains two very different and mutually antagonistic worlds: call them night and waking, call them surface and immersion.
Lording it over this under-realm is the figure of the pike, which strikes me as the speaker’s dark and toothsome double, a recurring malignance no more electable than her own shadow or reflection. Such poems bring the clammy uncertainties of childhood re-seeping into the brain’s folds with a persistence I’ve not seen matched in recent years. This most bipolar of companions is a book that jerks us repeatedly between light and dark, between breath and immersion, with a violent and to my mind unforgettable suddenness.”