cover image Gravity and Center: Selected Sonnets, 1994-2022

Gravity and Center: Selected Sonnets, 1994-2022

Henri Cole. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (176p) ISBN 978-0-374-60668-8

Suffering is neutralized by love for nature and a Zen mindset (“the sound of water poured into a bowl”) in the unflinching 12th collection by Cole (Blizzard). These new and previously collected sonnets are not love poems, though some are sex poems: “My soul-animal prefers the choke-chain.” The title poem speaks from the damaged center: “I’m sorry I cannot say I love you when you say you love me.” Dysfunctional family relationships are at the root of the speaker’s sense of alienation and disgust, viscerally introduced in the preface: “I came from a place with a hole in it, my body once its body, behind a beard of hair.” “Chiffon Morning,” reminiscent of James Merrill’s “The Broken Home,” expands on the mother-son relationship: “sour-milk/ breaths rehearsing death, she faces me, her room/ a pill museum where orange tea bags/ draining on napkins almost pass for art.” About the speaker’s father, he remembers: “My father lived in a dirty-dish mausoleum,/ watching a portable black-and-white television,/ reading the Encyclopedia Britannica,/ which he preferred to Modern Fiction.” There’s no easy resolution in this showcase of Cole’s subtle and evocative rendering of the human experience. (Apr.)