Shadows of the Trees

Poems & Prose

Poetry - General
117 Pages
Reviewed on 05/23/2022
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Author Biography

MICHAEL W. COOK is a multi-award-winning author across three genres: philosophy, mythology, and poetry. He is a 2022 winner of the Outstanding Creator Award, Firebird Book Award, Literary Titan Book Gold Award, and Literary Titan Book Silver Award.

Michael retired as a Major from the United States Air Force, received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Maryland, and earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. He is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership (Ph.D.) from Liberty University.

As a history enthusiast who enjoys worldwide travel, he frames his writings of events and ideas in a historical context. He self-published fifteen travel books from his journeys in North America, Europe, and Asia. Michael is currently working on a childhood memoir about growing up in Downeast Maine.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

In Shadows of the Trees: Poems & Prose by Michael W. Cook, poetry is music put into words. Some of this music is somber, sad, indeed emotional, while others express joy and elation and a sense of purpose, a direction in life. Poetry is also like the visual arts in that it uses words to paint literary pictures of events, happenings, emotions, and life itself. In poetry, one can absorb the poet’s transition through life, the maturing of years of experience after manipulating the myriad of complex tangents of youth, and then it’s time to think back: “Time is perplexing/ and hard to define./ Its haste is vexing,/ obscure, and sublime.” I love the use of sublime in comparison with the abstract concept of time.

Michael W. Cook’s Shadows of the Trees is a collection of poems that spans the 1990s. The poet mainly uses the traditional classic poetry form, complete with rhyming couplets, but he also includes some examples of his free-verse poems. Beginning with a concise introduction, the poet explains the background to this collection and then allocates each poem to a specific category of the year in which it was written. The collection begins with reflections on life as a university student: “Infinite diversities,/ infinite combinations./ No universities,/ in the beginnings of creation.” Thank heavens for that, as the beginning of creation one might envision as being too pure to be marred by the confines of institutions of higher learning, the so-called ivory towers. The passage of time is a recurring theme in these poems. In one poem, he begins with a re-write of a childhood rhyme marking the passage of another year, with some painful recollections of the celebration that helped him make the transition. This collection reflects on multiple meanings of life and how the poet comprehends what it means to be alive, what it means to love, and what it means to lose. The poems are monolithic – strong, powerfully emotive, uniform, and indivisible. This is an intense collection that one might want to study many times.

Pikasho Deka

Shadows of the Trees is a poetry collection penned over a consecutive eight-year period since 1990 by Michael Cook. "What is the Meaning of Life?" delves into the unexplained mysteries of life and questions its ultimate purpose. "Dreams" explores the elusive nature of dreams and how they provide a means to escape the daily rigors of life. "The First" poses some existential questions related to the human condition. In "Oracle Closing", a high school graduate ponders his hopes and dreams and wonders about the mysteries that lie ahead in the future. "Ode To Lost Love" laments the loss of one's lover. "Tainted Love" tells the story of a person who is still reeling from the aftereffects of a long dysfunctional relationship. "Time" reflects upon the fleeting nature of the passage of time.

Drawing inspiration from Jim Morrison of The Doors, Michael Cook crafts some beautifully written poems that capture the essence of youth angst, love, hate, hopes, and much more. Shadows of the Trees makes you wonder about your place in the cosmos, leaving a lot in your mind long after you've finished reading the poems. Cook covers a wide array of topics and subject matter through the lens of a young man just out of high school, gradually changing as the years pass by. What's interesting is that the poems also change, which demonstrates how our priorities shift as we grow older. I very much enjoyed Shadows of the Trees. If you're a poetry lover, I can't recommend it enough.

K.C. Finn

Shadows of the Trees: Poems & Prose is a collection of poetry suitable for all readers, but particularly aimed at young adult readers. The poems cover a variety of topics and were penned by author Michael Cook. The book follows the poet as he explores the questions that make life rich in an attempt to understand the world around him better. Throughout the work the answers to their big questions elude him, but as he grows within himself, exploring the absence of simple answers reveals itself as part of the tapestry of which he is a part.

The collection covers a wonderfully diverse selection of poems written over an 8-year period, grouped by year of writing in order to highlight the emotional development of the poet as he honed his craft and used his art to explore the questions that a lot of us face during that period of our lives. Author Michael Cook’s craftsmanship allows for wonderful introspection in the work and he candidly discusses the various aspects of his life as these come to the fore during each phase of his growth. Throughout the collection I found myself experiencing the full range of emotions. In particular, the poem 'Short Love' gave a brief but powerful glimpse of the theme of lost love. Overall, Shadows of the Trees is a wonderful collection of poetry with striking emotional imagery and an arrangement that highlights the emotional and creative development of the poet in an engaging and dynamic way, and I'd recommend it to all readers.

Jamie Michele

Shadows of the Trees: Poems & Prose by Michael Cook is a compilation of the author's original work that he'd pored over and put on paper over the course of several years. The collection is exclusively poetry, although the nod to prose in the title is fair enough, considering that some of the poems have hallmarks that resemble narrative poetry, which can be loosely linked to a form of flash fiction. The pieces are all free form with a lyrical sound that is achieved by employing a slant rhyme scheme of uneven syllable counts, retaining enough fluidity to read comfortably. All told, Cook gives us eight parts within designations of the year in the 1990s that he wrote the piece, beginning with 1990 and culminating with the last poem in 1997.

The best part about reading an anthology pulled together over a span of consecutive years by a single poet is that you are witnessing the evolution of an artist, which is the distinct feature I most loved in Shadows of the Trees by Michael Cook. The work starts well and this is a testament to Cook's talent, but it is the progression that connects a reader because it is almost like you are growing along with them. For example, there is some irony in Cook's final line of an earlier work titled Stranger's Son, where he speaks of the longing for “adventure, experience, perception, rebirth.” There is a tinge of innocence here because it really does speak of what a younger person would hope to see if they could look into their future and see what was looking back at them. Specifically, experience and perception are not longings usually connected to the maturity that comes from life. Cook does show this maturity later in A Good Man's Plight with a man who is looking back instead of forward, as maturity requires, given that there is more behind than there is ahead. All of Cook's work has heart and it was a pleasure to see how much stronger it pumped as the nineties barrelled forward. Recommended.

Diana Lopez

Michael Cook wrote this collection of poems over eight consecutive years. Each chapter reflects a year where we can share some of his experiences. As an introduction, he first tells us about his approach to poetry. In this way, we can understand the underlying ideas more deeply. Shadows of the Trees: Poems and Prose is the story of a life condensed into harmonious words. The themes evolve. In his first poems, Cook talks about his observations as a teenager and the conflict between his desires and emotions. Growing up involves a stage where questions are asked about the meaning of life, and he always maintained a certain rebelliousness and a thirst for revolution. Through the pages, you can see how he continues to grow and his poems evolve with him. In the end, we see a different man reflecting on his life.

I enjoyed reading Shadows of the Trees. Michael Cook demonstrates how a person’s thoughts mature with age. As time passed, he began to talk more about the injustice in the world, tolerance, and acceptance. At the same time, we can observe the development of an artistic sensibility that can only come through practice and experience. Cook tells us about his family, school, and social environment candidly. I was glad to follow his growth as a person in language expressed with such freedom. This book will be an inspiration for young people and adults who want to start reading poetry.


Brilliant! " I am lost in a desert of uncertainty, wind burnt by the memories of yesterday."

This is a beautiful collection of poems set out chronologically. If you read carefully you can really understand the mood, the progress, the ups and the downs of the writer in each particular year. I find poetry a really difficult genre to write and I believe this was an excellent job from the author.


Jim Morrison and other romantic poets influence this inward-looking work. As someone who enjoys American Romanticism from Emerson on through Roethke and the Beats, Shadows of the Trees was an interesting journey into the mind of a young poet who clearly has similar reading tastes as me. The need to explore inward, to ponder one's own thoughts and sensations, and to try to square the soul's questions with its moral imperatives, make for compelling subject matter.

It's interesting to see how across the years covered in this book, the poet's command of meter and flow improve. In earlier poems like "Dreams," lines are awkward and clunky to make the rhyme scheme work, while in later poems like "Exodus," there's more melody to each line.

Alyssa Mitchell

Paints Pictures with Words. I enjoy the detail of the poems. They are well written and visual. My favorite poem is "For Her". Some of the poetry is a little dark and is understandable since it was written in the adolescent years. The poetry is a timeline where you can see the perspective shift and transformation of the author and that is interesting. Overall the read is enjoyable.

Byron Tyler

Good Read. This book is Candid, Fast-paced and engaging with poems. Not only it's Highly imaginative and Intense but it's also Interesting and Insightful as well. Overall this book is Nostalgic, Passionate, Tense and emotional, and it Would make a great gift. Good read.


Poetry with a Different Concept. The author offers an insight into many different facets of his life, and as he tends to bare his soul through the different stages of maturing, he shares the low points in very meaningful ways. Some of the chapters of his life are best described in prose because through this approach he can share what appeared to be very painful experiences. Very thought provoking.

Volodymyr Koshchyts

Poetry with a unique concept. I enjoy reading some poetry from time to time, and when I came across this book, I knew I had to give it a read. This book offers a unique and meaningful insight on various aspects of life. The poems themselves are well-written and highly imaginative.

I also found it interesting watching how the author's writing style develops. Some earlier poems can feel a little clunky, while the latter ones are much more sophisticated and have a melody to them. Overall, it's been an enjoyable read, and I highly recommend it if you enjoy poetry.