Blackbird and Wolf

Overview

I don't want words to sever me from reality.

I don't want to need them. I want nothing to reveal feeling but feeling—as in freedom,

or the knowledge of peace in a realm beyond,

or the sound of water poured in a bowl.

—from "Gravity and Center"

In his sixth collection of verse, Henri Cole deepens his excavations and examinations of ...

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Blackbird and Wolf: Poems

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Overview

I don't want words to sever me from reality.

I don't want to need them. I want nothing to reveal feeling but feeling—as in freedom,

or the knowledge of peace in a realm beyond,

or the sound of water poured in a bowl.

—from "Gravity and Center"

In his sixth collection of verse, Henri Cole deepens his excavations and examinations of autobiography and memory. These poems—often hovering within the realm of the sonnet—combine a delight in the senses with the rueful, the elegiac, the harrowing. Central here is the human need for love, the highest function of our species. Whether writing about solitude or unsanctioned desire, animals or flowers, the dissolution of his mother's body or war, Cole maintains a style that is neither confessional nor abstract, and he is always opposing disappointment and difficult truths with innocence and wonder.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Cole writes] in a voice that buzzes with emotion . . . His best book to date." —Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly

In his sixth book, Cole wants to write "something highly controlled/ that is the opposite," and he succeeds. Once a poet of great formal control and dense, sometimes inscrutable lines, Cole (Middle Earth) now writes simply and sparely, mixing autobiography, eros and the natural world in a voice that buzzes with emotion. Single-lined stanzas accentuate the poems' spareness, placing great pressure on each line. Cole can devastate ("I'm sorry I cannot say I love you when you say/ you love me,"), declaim in deadpan ("I have a fever which I'm treating with gin") or plainly declare ("I'm tired of just being a man"). Many poems look grief in the face, addressing a dying mother, an ex-lover, flowers and animals, an absent god, the disappointing self, even the 43rd president, with whom Cole admits to a degree of fellowship—a rare sentiment these days, especially in poems—a common fear of "some unbroken animal/ circling in the dark wood." There are a very few moments when the feeling drains, but mostly this intimate, honest voice surprises. Poetry "is stronger/ than I am and makes me do what it wants," Cole writes of the bullying that has produced his best book to date. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
The best poems in this sixth collection by Pulitzer Prize finalist Cole are Zenlike. Quiet and introspective, they contain subtle figures of speech that make for an airy feel and ground the prose. Musing on everything from being born to praying to writing poems, which for Cole seems a form of prayer, these mostly free-verse sonnets are keenly felt but not always sharply executed. "Mimosa Sensitiva," for example, a crie de coeur written to and about Cole's dying mother, almost screams with pain, yet it never quite finds the words to convey its feelings partly because Cole uses too many images—some of which contradict each other. Remembering the past while comparing his mother to a spider, to a marsupial, to a horse, to a flower, to a mimosa tree, to a bird, Cole makes the poem top-heavy. Then there are the longer poems that feel flaccid, as if Cole let his mind wander over the cosmos, as does the pink butterfly in the poem, "Dune." Here, while praising poetry that's "highly controlled/like a dizzy honeycomb gleaming with amber light," Cole settles for less. Suitable for academic libraries only.
—Diane Scharper
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374531126
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/18/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 80
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan, and was raised in Virginia. The recipient of many awards, he is the author, most recently, of Middle Earth (FSG, 2003), a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and The Visible Man (FSG, 1998).

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Table of Contents


Birthday
Sycamores     3
Mimosa Sensitiva     4
Gulls     6
Oil & Steel     7
Ambulance     8
Chenin Blanc     9
Maple Leaves Forever     10
Twilight     11
Migraine     14
To Sleep     15
The Erasers     16
The Tree Cutters     19
Birthday     20
Self-portrait with Hornets     21
Gravity and Center
Gravity and Center     25
American Kestrel     26
Loons     27
Quarry     28
Homosexuality     29
Haircut     30
Toxicology     31
Poppies     32
Bowl of Lilacs     33
Shaving     34
My Weed     35
Self-portrait with Red Eyes     36
Embers     37
Wet Apples     38
Dune
Beach Walk     41
Eating the Peach     42
Dead Wren     43
To the Forty-third President     44
Hymn     47
The Lost Bee     48
Persimmon Tree     49
Bee     52
Mirror     53
Dune     54
Acknowledgments     61
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