cover image Stele


Cole Swensen. Post-Apollo (SPD, dist.), $12 trade paper (48p) ISBN 978-0-942996-78-4

Highly esteemed, always challenging, sometimes austere, Swensen (Gravesend) has a career marked by projects, book-length poems spurred by one—or more—clear formal goals. This brief and elegant collection—one book-length poem that can also be seen as a set of short similar units—sets out to mimic the act of walking, finding in the work of a person in motion a figure for all perception, wisdom, life: “walking is the other and/ and slips we think/ the motion as/ away... you think the way things move/ is their real name.” Though “walking is... the essential/ motion of the human body,” the shadows and outlines of Swensen’s lines keep threatening to stand still or to turn away: this carefully haunting and haunted aspect pervades the book and links it not just to real walkers, not just to the dynamic free verse of Forrest Gander or W.S. Merwin, but also to the history of sculpture: by the time we see “the only body” as “an opening which is... to be inhabited... as only the dead can,” Giacommetti has entered the poem as well. Fans of her most ambitious work may find this project a bit of a falling off, but others—especially those who came to Swensen through the big anthology she co-edited, American Hybrid—may cleave to this slender sequence. (Dec.)