flare by cole swensen

I’ve happened to come across this gorgeous limited edition artist’s book with color illustrations by Thomas Nozkowski, and poems by Cole Swensen called flame. I thought I’d read most of Cole’s work, but hadn’t seen this one (from 2009) before. It’s a beautiful sequence of poems that work through the images (abstract, geometric in muted colors) and create a sort of historical-scientific landscape of the body, the sun, the sea and the sky. All of those might sounds like pretty exhausted poetic tropes, but the lilting, sing-song effect of the short rhythmic lines, punctuated sparingly and often relying more on sound than sense for effect, forbids any kind of easiness with the various subjects.

And there are some beautiful lines:

an if-thou
of startlings
was nonetheless
history at bay
by insisting on seeing all manner of ascent as a flagrant refusal to face the world.

The last line stays with me particularly:

salt that stars on every surface that falls.

What I think I love most about this particular work is the wonder with which it moves in the world – a kind of openness and innocence that refuses bitterness and irony as a way of engaging with history and the world. A frank delight in strange beauty, lyrically expressed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.