Thursday, September 29, 2011

What is Henri Cole reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Henri Cole, author of Touch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011).

His entry begins:
My Queer War by James Lord—I miss James Lord, the biographer and memoirist, who died in 2009. His sane, incisive remembrances of others are always shrewd self-portraits. This book traces his career in the armed forces, beginning in 1942, from Nevada and California to France and Germany, a journey which brings him to terms with his sexuality while making acquaintances with the likes of Picasso and...[read on]
Among the early praise for Touch:
Cole’s eighth book of poems may be his most sensitive (in the manner of a compass needle), pointing as precisely as possible to the various sources of a lifetime’s fragility and emotional power. Written mostly in the pseudo-sonnets he’s developed in his recent books, these poems take long, at times excruciating looks at memories that Cole’s speakers must force themselves to learn from, as in “Dead Mother,” in which “five or six tears—profound,/ unflinching, humane—ran out of her skull,/ breathtakingly heroic.” With the same power of attention, Cole also watches the self slowly passing away: “My hair went away in the night while I was sleeping./ It sauntered along the avenue asking, ‘Why/ should I commit myself to him?.../... Then my good stiff prick went, too.” It’s as if Cole’s extreme attention manages, somehow, to simultaneously magnify and sooth aloneness, a mystery like the one into which a pair of free canaries fly in the book’s title poem: “Though they didn’t know where they were going,/ they made their prettiest song of all.”
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Learn more about the book and author at Henri Cole's website.

Writers Read: Henri Cole (December 2009).

Writers Read: Henri Cole.

--Marshal Zeringue