Henri Cole

An Introduction
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Henri Cole, who was born in 1956, is the author of six collections of poetry beginning with ‘The Marble Queen’ in 1986 and, most recently, ‘Blackbird and Wolf’ last year. He is a master of cadence, and a connoisseur of the suggestive mysteries surrounding cadence, how rhythms and meanings rub against each other. ’To write only a poem of language,’ he has said, ‘or only a poem of emotion is not enough. The two must wrestle vigorously with one another, like squirrels for a nut.’ In his poems, even the plainest statement comes shrouded in a halo of strangeness – it seems reasonable, to us, if not to him, that he was raised in a household where three languages were spoken. The self in his work is explored as a diver might explore the ocean bed, it is ready to be surprised, frightened, puzzled, while the world above the water is noted with something close to calm and half-remembered acceptance. Cole’s poems at times display an amazing eloquence and command of form, but they are usually also impelled by sorrow, by dark knowledge, by pleasure, by the body and its discontents, and by history and what it has left us. It is not surprising that he has invoked the language of prayer as being an early influence.
Colm Toibin, from an introduction at the PN International Poetry FestivalDublin


At the Blue Mountain Center, 2010
courtesy of Alice Attie