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:
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.