Oursby Cole Swensen
These poems are about gardens, particularly the seventeenth-century French baroque gardens designed by the father of the form, André Le Nôtre. While the poems focus on such examples as Versailles, which Le Nôtre created for Louis XIV, they also explore the garden as metaphor. Using the imagery of the garden, Cole Swensen considers everything from
These poems are about gardens, particularly the seventeenth-century French baroque gardens designed by the father of the form, André Le Nôtre. While the poems focus on such examples as Versailles, which Le Nôtre created for Louis XIV, they also explore the garden as metaphor. Using the imagery of the garden, Cole Swensen considers everything from human society to the formal structure of poetry. She looks in particular at the concept of public versus private property, asking who actually owns a garden? A gentle irony accompanies the question because in French, the phrase "le nôtre" means "ours." Whereas all of Le Nôtre's gardens were designed and built for the aristocracy, today most are public parks. Swensen probes the two senses of "le nôtre" to discover where they intersect, overlap, or blur.
Longtime Swensen fans will not be surprised to find a myriad of ideas and directions on a single subject-French gardens, this time-in her 12th collection. She has similarly treated hands, odd inventions, paintings and other subjects in previous books. Created for the nobility and now mostly for public usage, gardens here become all-purpose metaphors. "A garden is a tide," writes Swensen; elsewhere it's a letter, an allergy, a tithe. The book's title is a translation of the last name of Andre de Notre, the man considered to be the father of the French formal garden. The poems, even as they are peppered with detailed histories ("In 1675, Louis XIV made Andre Le Notre a noble"), are free to go anywhere. In "Marie (1573-1642)," Marie Medici, the wife of Henry IV, finds herself at the Luxembourg Gardens in the summer of 2007: "She stood a full minute, shocked and then started screaming./ The rue d'Assas has cut off the entire northwest sector, and half the trees are gone." This may be the most engaging and delightful of Swensen's recent projects. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Remembering/that there is no difference between land and landscape/I carry my window with me/until/there is no difference." In this 12th volume of poems, award-winning poet Swensen (e.g., Try; Noon) explores myriad aspects of gardens, particularly those created by 17th-century French formal gardener André Le Nôtre. Blurring the lines between formal structures of gardens, their geometric spaces, and the geometric spaces that surround them, she observes, "André Le Nôtre thought that by gardening along the strictest principles of geometry, time/would come apart in his hands." These artistic spaces are also explored through the landscape of Swensen's organic arrangement of line. Many poems finish with notes of historical significance, and many come to ironic conclusions. While often difficult, Swensen's poems define gardens beyond traditional margins: "The Garden as Extension," "A Garden as Between," "A Garden as a Letter." By allowing for many interpretations of garden and space, of the concrete and the esoteric, of light and shadow, Swensen suggests that they "intersect(s) with the human" in a way that allows for multiple, sometimes brilliant, transcendencies. "A garden is a tide," she suggests. "A garden is a tithe." Highly recommended for contemporary poetry collections.
What People are Saying About This
"Highly recommended for contemporary poetry collections."Library Journal
"The best landscape architecture book of the year is a book-length poem."Archnewsnow.com
"The unrelenting lens Swensen turns on the [gardens] allows us to glimpse some of the myriad layers that constitute history."Harvard Review
Meet the Author
Cole Swensen is the author of eleven previous books of poetry. She is also a translator and has won the PEN USA Award in Literary Translation. Her poetry has won the Iowa Poetry Prize and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award, and she teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
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