Thursday, September 29, 2011

Henri Cole

Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1956 and raised in Virginia. He has published eight collections of poetry, including Middle Earth (FSG, 2004) which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. He has received many awards for his work, including the Kingsley Tufts Award, the Rome Prize, the Berlin Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Lenore Marshall Award.

His most recent collection is Touch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011). He teaches at Ohio State University, is poetry editor of The New Republic, and lives in Boston.

Earlier this month I asked Cole what he was reading. His reply:
I’ve been reading a jumble of things:

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 Stein.

Dickinson: selected poems and commentaries by Helen Vendler—This book brought me closer to Emily Dickinson, like a lantern in the night. Its 150 short trenchant essays present a revisionist portrait of Dickinson who uses landscape (and its creatures) to mediate emotion in her epigrammatic, terse, abrupt, surprising, unsettling, flirtatious, savage, winsome, metaphysical, provocative, blasphemous, tragic, and funny poems. I agree with Seamus Heaney, who calls Vendler the “best close reader of poems to be found on the literary pages.”

Sourland by Joyce Carol Oates—This hopeful collection of sixteen stories has subterranean themes of loss, grief, and trying to move on. It takes its name from the Sourland Mountain Preserve where the protagonist finds herself at the conclusion. Oates writes about people—some loving and domestic, others not at all—who make mistakes, gropingly and intuitively. I believe her world.

American Rendering by Andrew Hudgins—These dark, funny poems are chosen from seven previously published books. A literary descendent of James Dickey, Hudgins has a formal, descriptive, Southern Gothic imagination.

Next up in the pile of books beside my bed are new poetry collections by Rosanna Warren (Ghost in a Red Hat), Yusef Komunyakaa, (The Chamelion Couch), Dana Levin (Sky Burial), and Robert Pinsky’s Selected Poems.

Also, I loved loved Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker (The Complete Correspondence)—A favorite poet is revealed worrying about all the things you and I experience: where is she going to live? where is she going to work? what about her retirement and her health insurance? who is going to love her? And on and on. It’s heartbreaking but shows us that no one is immune to these human concerns.
Visit Henri Cole's website.

Writers Read: Henri Cole (December 2009).

--Marshal Zeringue