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Break the Nose of Every Beautiful Thing by Jack Cooper

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Curiosity drives Jack Cooper’s debut pamphlet. Drawing from his experience in biomedical research, Cooper finds severe beauty at a cellular level. A maggot is ‘a white wave without water’; mould in a student flat is ‘a firework display exploding in slow motion’. The joy of discovery is a common thread that ties queer desire and dissection to Gilgamesh and genetically-engineered squids. Just as an egg becomes a fly and a boy becomes a man, we witness a metamorphosis of the scientific to the abstract. In these poems, a body is never finished. 

Break the Nose of Every Beautiful Thing won an Eric Gregory Award in 2022. 

Jack Cooper is a science communicator who spent several years working in biomedical research, with a focus on developmental biology and neuroscience. His poetry has been discussed on BBC Radio 4, commissioned by the Science Museum and Poetry Society, and performed at the V&A. The Poetry Society educational resource “We Are Cellular” uses his poetry to teach senior school students about metaphor and cell biology. 

"Break the Nose of Every Beautiful Thing is as joyful in its imagery as it is thought-provoking in its abstractions. Cooper takes us on a voyage of life and love, leaving us contemplating our own journeys of self-discovery."

– Dr. Helen Sharman, Britain's first astronaut

"These are poems of learning, about both the self and the world around us, aglow with the bioluminescence of curiosity – and curiosity, we are told (warned?) in the opening poem 'is a dividing cell; / something that can’t help but make more of itself.' Cooper’s words have 'bloomed sleek and excessive / as an orchid’s corolla' on the page and in my mind, a heady scent that will tint the way I look at even the most everyday things – from Blu Tack to hoverflies – for a long time to come. Break the Nose of Every Beautiful Thing is, in a word, exquisite."

— Ellora Sutton, author of Antonyms for Burial

"It can be said that the power of poetry can be in its clashing of two unlike things and finding ways to connect the likenesses between them. In the case of Jack Cooper's Break the Nose of Every Beautiful Thing, this idea of poetry is constantly put to the test. It does this through the use of constantly comparing visual ideas, striking line and syntactical arrangements that constantly wrong foot the reader in a good way. So even at the level of the line we are experiencing these breakages of perception, and in this fracture and repair there is beauty."

— Roger Robinson, author of A Portable Paradise

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