Henri Cole Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Though he is primarily known as a poet, Henri Cole has written several brief statements about his writing practice and his life, frequently in response to prompts from literary societies and little magazines. Perceptive and concise as aphorisms (“A lyric poem is a MRI of what it is to be human. . . . Like a delicate instrument, it records all the little agitations of seeing and being”), these carefully fashioned pronouncements share many of the qualities of his poems and complement his work in interesting ways.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Henri Cole has won a number of the most prestigious awards available to American poets. In 2008, he received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, granted to the previous year’s most outstanding book of poetry, for Blackbird and Wolf. This collection also received the Ambassador Book Award from the English Speaking Union, a Lambda Literary Award, and the Massachusetts Book Award in poetry. Middle Earth was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry and received the Kingsley Tufts Award and the Massachusetts Book Award in 2004. Also in 2004, he received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Cole has also won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and from the Ingram Merrill Foundation. He is also the recipient of the Berlin Prize of the American Academy in Berlin, the Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship, and a fellowship from the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Cole, Henri. “Henri Cole.” Interview by Christopher Hennessy. In Outside the Lines: Talking with Contemporary Gay Poets, edited by Hennessy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005. In this perceptive and lively interview, Hennessy and Cole talk about the poet’s life, writing practices, and artistic development. A very useful presentation of many of the thematic and formal preoccupations of Cole’s oeuvre. Bibliography.

Hammer, Langdon. “Apollo and Dionysus.” American Scholar 77, no. 4 (Autumn, 2008): 64-65. A short article centered on one of Cole’s aphoristic statements from an interview in which he describes his desire to be “Apollonian in body and Dionysian in spirit.” Hammer discusses ways in which this is a reversal from typical expectations and provides an interesting approach to reading Cole.

McLane, Maureen N. “Is This a Table? No, This Is a Poem.” Review of Middle Earth. The New York Times, April 27, 2003, p. 8. A particularly compelling review of “Middle Earth,” which discusses the poet’s progression from his earlier books and draws out many of the significant themes and passages of the collection.

Vendler, Helen. “A Dissonant Triad.” Review of The Zoo Wheel of Knowledge. Parnassus: Poetry in Review 16, no. 2 (1991): 391-404. A review of The Zoo Wheel of Knowledge by the noted poetry critic and onetime colleague of Cole’s, which praises the collection for its satirical sharpness and its avoidance of “ringing declarations,” while calling for more astringency in its sweeter, Merrillesque moments.