Cole reads at Elliott Bay Books
101 S Main St, 624-6600, Sun March 14, 4 pm, free
and at
UW's Parrington's Commons, Mon March 15, 7:30 pm, free.


In The Visible Man (Knopf, $22), HENRI COLE does to the sonnet what postmodern consciousness does to the self: he shatters it, sucks it dry, turns it inside-out, and--sometimes--holds it in a quiet embrace. The central problem of his book is knowledge, which made Apollo a god but which divides us from ourselves, muddling "what is real and what is not." Cole tries to join body and mind by improvisation, in poems that are forms of Arte Povera--art "in motion"--but because his self is neither a "realm" he can enter and rest in, nor a harmonious and sturdy Greek column, he becomes a tourist and connoisseur of his own disintegration. He is marble rubble, broken stanzas, scattered glimpses of porn flicks, moments of loveless fellatio under the pier. The poet may refuse to flatter us with sweetness, but he can be very funny, mingling exquisite images with comic observation. Ancient crumbling statues resemble "bodies sinking in quicksand," but "a luckless prick/is frozen in the stucco." Determined to "write what is human, not escapist," he makes himself "at home with evil, with unexamined feelings,/with just the facts," welcoming the "Stranger, with genitalia greased," crooning, "I have been waiting for you./Come, unlace my boots; I chose you." Here the nervous system is (for better or worse) the organ of the mind.

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