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Poetry Give-Away VI: Try by Cole Swenson

First person to comment or email me gets a brand new copy of 1999 The Iowa Poetry Prize winner Try by Cole Swenson, for the price of shipping, $2.

Try comes in a square format which accomodates the long line that many of her poems play with. Looking at poems like "Prologue," you might describe Swenson's work as multi-genre, verse mixed with prose that I would not call prose poetry. It is like a nonfiction essay with bursts of lyric poetry at intervals. Try is a great collection for anyone who enjoys ekphrasis. There are a number of different approaches to writing about/in conversation with artwork, and Try illustrates, at my count about four, each reflecting something of the nature of the artwork in a nice organic way: complex and layered, streamlined and focused, ironic and casual, metaphysical and earnest.

The main themes of the collection are religion, hagiography, art, the experience of art. Long sequences, short lyrics, prosey bits.

My favorite poems in this collection are in the section "Triune: After Three Paintings by Olivier Debre." The lines are short, the meaning clear and strange. Here's three stanzas from "Liberty to C."

"The pale green makes the woman
seem freer than the rest of us.

Inside her is a blue egg.
She lives with it,
which is why she looks like that:

No one has wings.
No one lies."

I also really enjoyed the prose poems inspired by Hieronymous Bosch, although I will admit to not knowing who that is or looking it up.

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