The Look of Things: Poems

Overview

The poems in Henri Cole's third book, The Look of Things, voice the tension between the social and the spiritual life, between the desire for company and for solitude, between youth and the ravages of disease, between the American and the exotic. Cole treats these conflicting concerns in tones sometimes satiric, sometimes elegiac, sometimes ruefully self-deprecating, sometimes harrowingly tragic. The vein of playfulness cannot obscure the social and domestic losses attending life, but joy is not forgotten, even ...
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Overview

The poems in Henri Cole's third book, The Look of Things, voice the tension between the social and the spiritual life, between the desire for company and for solitude, between youth and the ravages of disease, between the American and the exotic. Cole treats these conflicting concerns in tones sometimes satiric, sometimes elegiac, sometimes ruefully self-deprecating, sometimes harrowingly tragic. The vein of playfulness cannot obscure the social and domestic losses attending life, but joy is not forgotten, even when it is black-bordered by epitaph. Though the ghost of formal verse haunts these poems, they allude to it without subservience. And Cole lifts the topics of everyday life into the symbolic order of reflection and structure without ever losing his awareness of their origins in the heart.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Cole's poetry is elegant, urbane, highly polished, and delicately homoerotic. As the book's title suggests, he is fascinated by surfaces, and his considerable descriptive powers wonderfully capture the luxurious atmosphere of southern France and well-appointed New York City apartments. But his interest lies also in the more complex surfaces of human behavior and appearance, where an impeccable gesture or a well-formed body are inadequate disguises for the mortality lurking beneath. Cole's The Zoo Wheel of Knowledge, LJ 12/1/89 technical proficiency gives his poems a limpid, almost mesmerizing cadence, and his sophisticated wit drives the reader's interest from line to line: a memory "clings like lint/on a black velvet sofa" and Manhattan's buildings are "black and white like sonnets." Yet the seamlessness of these poems too often seems precious or mannered, discouraging rather than inviting engagement. Recommended only for comprehensive collections of contemporary poetry.-Christine Stenstrom, Brooklyn P.L., New York
Zom Zoms
Each poem in "The Look of Things" ripples melancholically out from Cole's pen as if from a stone tossed into a sleeping mind, rousing the drowsy view of things to a pondering of time's effects on the soul. "Sacrament" speaks of loss and the acceptance of loss: "I have given you back to her, / locked the letters in a box." In "Harvard Classics," a child knows through feeling the sadness of his parents' lives: ". . . their marriage is / already dead. I know / this though I'm only six." Cole is a teller of stories that make echoes worth catching and well worth listening to.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679433521
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/31/1995
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 71
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.44 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1956. He was reared in Virginia and graduated from the College of William and Mary. He holds graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University and is the recipient of fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1989 he received the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship. His poems have appeared in Antaeus, The Atlantic, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Yale Review, among others, and he has published two previous collections of poetry: The Marble Queen (1986) and The Zoo Wheel of Knowledge (1989). From 1982 to 1988 he was executive director of the Academy of American Poets, and he has since taught at Columbia, Reed, Yale, and the University of Maryland. At present he is Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Poetry at Harvard.
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Table of Contents

The Pink and the Black 3
Sacrament 4
The Gondolas 5
The Look of Things 6
40 Days and 40 Nights 7
The Roman Baths at Nimes 9
Carnations 10
Torso 12
Paper Dolls 13
Supper with Roy 15
Christmas in Carthage 17
Little G Minor Lament 19
Plastilina 21
Palm Court 23
You Come When I Call You 24
The Bird Show at Aubagne 29
The Minimum Circus 31
Aix 33
Harvard Classics 34
Marius, Son of Sarkis, Named for the Roman Consul, Savior from the Barbarians, Putative Husband of Mary Magdalene 36
Land of Lemons 37
The Housekeeper and the Handyman 40
Three Aurelian Moons 42
Palette 45
Irradiation 46
Eating Figs Under the White Rocks 48
Une Lettre a New York 49
Crayola 53
Swimming with the Dead 54
Tarantula 55
The Cabbage Butterfly 56
Wedding Announcement 57
Katrina's Bedroom 59
The Christological Year 61
The House Guest Looks at Love and Life 63
Buddha and the Seven Tiger Cubs 64
Apostasy 65
Ex-Voto 66
Immaculate Mary Breathes the Air We Breathe 68
And He Kissed Me with the Kisses from His Mouth 70
The New Life 71
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