Monday 22 July 2013

Peter Cole's Things on Which I've Stumbled (New Directions, 2008)

I stumbled onto a stack of new copies of this book at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop in Oxford last week and was surprised at the counter to be charged £4. 'How'd I get so lucky?' I asked. 'Look at all that stock,' was the response. So if you enjoy the passages below and would like to get your own, I recommend visiting or phoning the Albion Beatnik. I must say, though, I prefer Cole's earlier volume, What Is Doubled, which is less sententious and heavy on end rhyme than Things on Which I've Stumbled. 

Here are some of my favourite passages from this volume:

Not just the past ascending into
   the present of a given seeing,
but that present itself collapsing
   into the voices speaking to it--

so that the current, mixing, becomes
   duration which one, mostly, lives:


Cut off by worms and time--
as we will be,
                        and are


Thus the poet responds
                   to cruelty
song the product of exigency


. . . friendship souring inside aloneness . . . . 


how language's lightning in the sentence is won . . . 

from 'Things on Which I've Stumbled'

. . . my own slug-like conscience,
moving along by, it seems, contracting
against itself. The slime and motion inching me
toward the sublime, through confusion, like wheat.


                             Bad translation
is like drawing a bucket from a moonlit
well--and losing the silvery shine on the surface.


                               There is a power
rinsing spirit with detritus, like a tide.


In an extension of the mind, nearing its
limits--deltas of twisting branches forking
finely toward a pewter sky, shifting as
roots of those trees descend through silt, to sewage
and clay. There, Solomon said, are spirits.


The dervishes turn on axes as old
as earth's, but pointing toward their own tombstones.
Within their shroud-like cloaks and skirts they spin.
I'd gone thinking I'd see a hackneyed thing,
then watched my heart's arms like their dance unfold.

from 'Notes on Bewilderment'

. . . nothing without the mind's holding it there in the day's crucible reckoning . . . . 

from 'The Ghazal of What He Sees'

The army has nearly written a poem:
You'll now need a permit just to stay home.

from 'Coexistence: A Lost and Almost Found Poem'

. . . when things were good,
it seemed there was more
air within than without.

from 'Proverbial Drawing'


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