Harmless Encounters/ poetry by Raphael Kosek/ winner of The Comstock Review’s 2021 Jessie Bryce Niles Chapbook Contest/ book review by Ken Holland

Precise and fleet.

This line appears in the first poem of Kosek’s latest collection. It’s a line that might prepare the reader for that which is small, well-defined, and barely temporal in its existence. And yet, throughout these poems, we’re given the expanse of heaven:

“glinting somewhere

when we are not looking.”

And a temporal framework in which what we search for, and miss, may be “missed for eternity.” Here is a collection that reaches out, and in so doing, reaches deeply inward. Where the world around the poet is first held up for inspection, then introspection. How, in one poem,

a “quiet girl…waiting for it all to begin” 

suddenly understands that her life has already begun 

“and she was in it…and then so this is how it goes.” 

Depth and understatement are the paradoxical partners in so much of Kosek’s work. As is language itself—the well-chosen image, the beauty that inhabits so many of her lines, for when we read anyone’s poetry it’s language that always must first draw us in. Followed by other elements of craft, as Kosek exhibits in the pacing of her poems, and the carefully crafted denouement at each poem’s end. From the spiritual to the quotidian, the range is remarkable, as displayed in another poem where Kosek writes of saints 

“calling us to all that is unnamed/but keener than a slim blade

piercing the only body we know.” 

Here is a collection that pierced by body as well. And upon reading, could very well pierce yours.

Order the book through The Comstock Review: www.comstockreview.org


Read the poem, “June Rain” by Raphael Kosek from Harmless Encounters here in Lightwood’s Summer 2022 issue. Two additional poems by Raphael Kosek are published here in Lightwood: “The Fox,” (Issue #8), and “The Way West” (Issue #1).


Ken Holland is a poet and book reviewer for Lightwood. His poem, “Fallen Wings” can be read here in Lightwood Issue #7.

Raphael Kosek’s poems and nonfiction have appeared in Poetry East, Catamaran, and many other journals.  Her chapbook, Rough Grace, won the 2014 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Prize. She won the 2019 Bacopa Literary Review’s poetry contest and Eastern Iowa Review’s 2016 nonfiction prize.  American Mythologywas recently released from Brick Road Poetry Press. She teaches English at Marist College. She is the 2019-2020 Dutchess County Poet Laureate.

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