Blackbird and Wolf (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
First glancing at Blackbird and Wolf, Henri Cole’s first book after he received the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award in 2004, a reader might be interested mainly in his formal structures and constraints. As in his previous collections, Cole demonstrates his affinity for the closed world of the fourteen-line poem. Of the thirty-eight poems in the collection, thirty-one are shapely, beautifully constructed unrhymed sonnetlike poems, and three are longer poems formed by joining together between two and six fourteen-line stanzas. The book, divided into three sections, has two sections made up of fourteen poems and a final section of ten poems, but a reader would quickly notice that this mathematical precision, this formal attention, is joined with an emotional, sensitive counterweight to the rigors of patterned numbers: These are poems that show the emotional response of a man to the world of love, loss, and the trap of reason.
The book opens with fourteen poems that cover some familiar territory for readers aware of Cole’s earlier work: poems about his parents, about solitude, about love and its distances. The moment of birth begins the book, with a less-than-sentimental opening: “I came from a place with a hole in it,/ my body once its body, behind a beard of hair.” This moment of bonding between mother and son is given a typical twist by Cole: The link between mother and child allows for touching, for intimacy, but it is described...
(The entire section is 1651 words.)
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