Orphic Paris (Paperback)
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A poetic portrait of Paris that combines prose poetry, diary, and memoir by award-winning writer and poet Henri Cole.
Henri Cole’s Orphic Paris combines autobiography, diary, essay, and poetry with photographs to create a new form of elegiac memoir. With Paris as a backdrop, Cole, an award-winning American poet, explores with fresh and penetrating insight the nature of friendship and family, poetry and solitude, the self and freedom. Cole writes of Paris, “For a time, I lived here, where the call of life is so strong. My soul was colored by it. Instead of worshiping a creator or man, I cared fully for myself, and felt no guilt and confessed nothing, and in this place I wrote, I was nourished, and I grew.” Written under the tutelary spirit of Orpheus—mystic, oracular, entrancing—Orphic Paris is an intimate Paris journal and a literary commonplace book that is a touching, original, brilliant account of the city and of the artists, writers, and luminaries, including Cole himself, who have been moved by it to create.
About the Author
Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan, to a French mother and an American father. He has published nine collections of poetry, including Middle Earth, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He has received many awards for his work, including the Jackson Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award, the Rome Prize, the Berlin Prize, the Lenore Marshall Award, and the Medal in Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His most recent collection of poetry is Nothing to Declare. He teaches at Claremont McKenna College and lives in Boston.
"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." —Harold Bloom
"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." —Publishers Weekly
“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] lustrous, autobiographical book of musings, memoir, and artistic reflections….A masterful example of the ambulatory narrative, à la W. G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn." —Diego Báez, Booklist
"A delicate, affectionate, and reflective memoir...A wise, astute, and luminous literary commonplace book." —Kirkus Reviews
“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!” —Edmund White
"He 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