Henri Cole’s Best of Both Worlds

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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

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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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