Pierce the Skin

Henri Cole, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $25 (140p) ISBN 978-0-374-23283-2

Cole has been called a “major poet” by no less an authority than Harold Bloom, and his work has been consistently lauded throughout his closely watched career. This slim (perhaps too slim) selection from Cole’s six previous books offers the first bird’s-eye view of Cole’s body of work, and it will most likely leave readers wanting more. Cole is nothing if not constantly intense on the page—his verse is always melancholy, but also carries a kind of religious weight, as if sadness itself were a ticket out of Hell. Cole is unafraid to embarrass himself (“After the death of my father,” begins one poem, “I locked// myself in my room, bored and animallike”) if it will lead him to his particular brand of skinned clarity, as when, at the end of the same poem, he seeks his father in “a little room in which glowing cigarettes// came and went, like souls losing magnitude,// but none with the battered hand I knew.” In Cole’s poems, the stakes are always impossibly high, and every insight is deeply costly. But perhaps that’s the price for being able to say, “I can feel my heart beating inside my heart.” (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/25/2010
Release date: 03/01/2010
Open Ebook - 160 pages - 978-1-4668-7777-1
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-0-374-53266-6
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