Henri Cole

How Robert Lowell Turned Words Into Art

Henri Cole explains the poet's genius

In 1976 the 92nd Street Y recorded Robert Lowell reading some of his poetry. It was, in short, a masterpiece. 

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To start, Seamus ordered cherrystone clams and I had a half-dozen oysters ...

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The Constant Leaf

I wish my father was here. His features were calm and striking, even when his breaths were horrible. Remote pale yellow sunlight behind a screen of clouds. Landscape in darkness. Rain comes straight down in dense strands that cover the street with rain froth. The trees are so full it makes everything seem constant but fragile, as if any moment could be the last. All the news is the same news: somebody bombing somebody, somebody cheating somebody, somebody hurting the one they love, so we talk about forgiveness in a low-key unabashed way: forgive me for the errors of my youth; forgive me for th

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Flying Things

Now the spell has broken, the bleeding and coalescing begun, each day soft and hard, cold and warm, nurturing and distant, as the cold rain gives a ghostly aura, wet-on-wet, to everything, moth, squirrel, bee, fly, and bat providing occasional reverberations from the earth, which soon will be draped and piled into abstraction, while each snowfall— like linen unfolded, conjuring the domestic— forces us further inward into the fraught territories of self and family, instead of out into waves at the beach or furrows in the bronzing garden. Fold one thousand paper cranes on the kitchen table and t

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Orange Hole

The horses were so beautiful but the people ugly. Why is that? Both seemed perfectly alive. Both seemed to want to do what was asked of them as bullets snapped hitting branches and rocks and a blast wave blew everything down. I crouched against a boulder looking for safety, returning fire, everything in dreamy slow motion, orange smoke drifting out of the misty hole, introducing the idea of beauty as a salve and of aesthetics making something difficult accessible. Alone in that box of crisscrossing lead— my ears ringing, my skin pouring sweat— I missed you.

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Embers

Poor summer, it doesn't know it's dying. A few days are all it has. Still, the lake is with me, its strokes of blue-violet and the fiery sun replacing loneliness. I feel like an animal that has found a place. This is my burrow, my nest, my attempt to say, I exist. A rose can't shut itself and be a bud again. It's a malady, wanting it. On the shore, the moon sprinkles light over everything, like a campfire, and in the green-black night, the tall pines hold their arms out as God held His arms out to say that He was lonely and that He was making Himself a man.

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