poem index

About this poet

Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1956 and raised in Virginia. He received his B.A. from the College of William and Mary in 1978, his M.A. from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee in 1980, and his M.F.A. from Columbia University in 1982.

His volumes of poetry include: Blackbird and Wolf (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007), the 2008 recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Middle Earth (2003), which received the 2004 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; The Visible Man (1998); The Look of Things (1995); The Zoo Wheel of Knowledge (1989); and The Marble Queen (1986).

About his own work, Cole writes: "In my own poems, I have grown accustomed to astringency; there is no longer any compulsion to hide or temper the truth, as there was when I was setting out twenty years ago. I do not want to relive what I have felt or seen or hoped along the way, but I do want to extract some illustrative figures, as I do from the parables in the Bible, to help me persevere each day at my writing table, where I must confront myself, overcome any fear of what I might find there, and begin assembling language into poetry."

 

Cole's awards and honors include the Berlin Prize of the American Academy in Berlin, the Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

From 1982 until 1988 Cole was executive director of The Academy of American Poets. Since then he has held many teaching positions and been the artist-in-residence at various institutions, including Smith College, Reed College, Brandeis, Columbia, Harvard, and Yale Universities. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Multimedia

From the Image Archive

The Boat-Header

Henri Cole, 1956
I saw you 
unexpectedly 
on the street today.
Though it was midday 
your eyes were dilated,

and you seemed 
almost electrically 
charged with thought,
with an increased 
speed of speaking:  

"I garden, I grill meat, 
I prowl the bars."  
But I was having
difficulty listening.
Your teeth were growing.  

A muscle 
spasmed against 
my diaphragm;  
I needed 
a bag of ice.  

Still, I could see 
those rooms 
with perfect clarity:  
the coat rack 
and bureau, 

the dinner plates 
with congealed meat,
the flea market Piranesi, 
and the long mirrors
like camera lenses 

freezing us
as the boat-header 
gave you his final 
thrusts, preparatory 
to the cutting-in.

Copyright © 2012 by Henri Cole. Used with permission of the author.

Henri Cole

Henri Cole

Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1956 and raised in

by this poet

poem
I found a baby shark on the beach.
Seagulls had eaten his eyes. His throat was bleeding.
Lying on shell and sand, he looked smaller than he was.
The ocean had scraped his insides clean.
When I poked his stomach, darkness rose up in him,
like black water. Later, I saw a boy,
aroused and elated, beckoning from a
poem

 

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poem

[Nara Deer Park]
 

With my head on his spotted back

and his head on the grass—a little bored

with the quiet motion of life

and a cluster of mosquitoes making

hot black dunes in the air—we slept

with the smell of his fur engulfing us.