Henri Cole’s Best of Both Worlds

Although many of the poems in Henri Cole’s Middle Earth are single-stanza free-verse sonnets, some of the moments I found most technically interesting involved indented lines. Take, for example, the opening poem, “Self-Portrait In A Gold Kimono:”

Born, I was born.

Tears represent how much my mother loves me,

shivering and steaming like a horse in rain.

My heart as innocent as Buddha’s,

my name a Parisian bandleader’s.

I am trying to stand.

Father is holding me and blowing in my ear,

like a glassblower on a flame.

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Wallace Stevens: the Emperor of Ice Cream

Read The Poem

What is so great about this poem is the way it feels in your mouth when read aloud (try it!) and the way it delights the senses — all the while evading much in the way of prosaic meaning. Yet despite its lack of solid, linear, non-symbolic meaning, the poem is profoundly assertive. Rather than examine the lush (concupiscent, perhaps?) language elements of this poem, I would like to take a moment to talk about the line breaks, and how the few artificially broken lines in the poem serve to strengthen the simultaneous sense of certainty and delight.

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