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Series: New York Review Books
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
by Henri Cole
Henri Cole always has seemed to me the central poet of his American generation. Orphic Paris is a meditation both on Paris and on the inward spirit of Henri Cole. What emerges is a vision of reality worthy of Paul Valéry.
This impressionistic paean to Paris from poet Cole bypasses conventional memoir or travelogue to give readers a captivating collection of his memories….Paris lovers and Cole fans will rejoice, but so will any reader who delights in fine writing.
Henri Cole’s Orphic Paris is a remarkable work—a poet’s most intimate diary, written entirely in Paris, in a sequence of visits that take us into the interior of the city as into the interior of the questing poet’s soul. The voice of the poet here is confiding, erudite, tender, unexpected in its sympathies and discoveries; like Henri Cole’s extraordinary poetry, it is both finely crafted and yet—seemingly—artless, unpretentious. One of the great pleasures of Orphic Paris is the poet’s delight in the work and words of others—fellow poets, artist-friends, Parisians who drift into his ardently observant life, and move on.
—Joyce Carol Oates
A delicate, affectionate, and reflective memoir...A wise, astute, and luminous literary commonplace book.
For a foreigner Paris can be the loneliest city in the world. But loneliness makes us good observers, and Henri Cole, this great poet, is alert to everything outside and inside himself, to his thoughts and impressions, to his memories and aspirations. We can watch poetry being born!
[Henri Cole] has the voluptuary’s fastidious preoccupation with sensation—rather, say, an almost Japanese vocation for connoisseurship. But what is most striking in this work is its composure. Henri Cole’s poems do not strain for attention; for all their casual, anecdotal worldliness and natural diction, they project an eerie gravity. The poems’ shimmering, enigmatic tranquility coexists with intense feeling: they are clear without being stodgy, striking in their poise and delicacy and formal beauty without seeming, ever, mere exquisite diversions. He is an artist of the greatest gifts.
—Louise Glück, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New Member Citation