On Walking On
Cole Swensen. Nightboat, $15.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-937658-66-3
Utilizing both research and praxis, Swensen (Landscapes from a Train) draws on the rich history of writing about walking in this sonorous and attentive collection. The writers Swensen references span from Chaucer through contemporary poet Lisa Robertson. As a result, the collection moves across wilderness and city streets, by the light of day and the dark of night, over continents and centuries. What walking means for each writer ranges as dramatically as their environments, and the differences therein raise fundamental questions about the dynamics between self, composition, and world. When Robert Walser walks, it is a way to still and arrange: “A walk brings things out, wraps them up// in glorious scents, holds them out at arm’s length and keeps them there, just out of reach, perfecting the scene.” In contrast, W.G. Sebald writes and walks, “inflaming the line—in the sense that a nerve, sufficiently riled, thwarts any conclusion,// and instead radiates outward in all directions.” Early on, Swensen observes that “there’s a visceral relationship between the pace at which you walk and that/ at which you write.” These poems get into the body, tuning the reader’s attention to Swensen’s long, steadily percussive lines. Cover to cover, Swensen offers readers a path through “a rhythmed reverie they could all walk into and farther into.” (Apr.)
This review has been corrected; an earlier version misspelled the author's name.
Reviewed on: 03/27/2017