Poetry News

Cole Swensen's On Walking On Will Delight

By Harriet Staff
Cole Swensen

Karen An-hwei Lee reviews Cole Swensen's newest book, On Walking On (Nightboat Books, 2017), for Kenyon Review. "[T]his volume of assorted ruminations on 'writers who walk' will delight the avid readers of Cole Swensen’s multigenre oeuvre as a poet, essayist, and translator, alongside those who are drawn to On Walking On’s exploration of the ageless subject of perambulatory inspiration." More:

While the book summons a diverse array of texts—the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, the Transcendentalist musings of Henry David Thoreau, the Enlightened prose of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and epiphanic Woolfian moments of being—in an assemblage of renowned, ambitious walkers, Swensen’s roving grammar of existence, magnified through the rhythms of her language as a choreography of objects or a palette of sounds and signs at play, reconnoiters and destabilizes one of the most ancient behaviors of Homo sapiens, our bipedal mode of locomotion. The following brief encounter with friends, the third stanza of Swensen’s original poem “Walks 1 through 5” on Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s unfinished work Reveries of a Solitary Walker, subtly elucidates the slippages of naming identities and places as anchoring devices lost to an ambiguous reality: Is the first-person Rousseau real or a ghost whose boundary of existence is blurred with that of friends who are lost? With the parenthetical pronoun shift, are all parties implied to be lost?

Read the full piece, which includes excerpts of the text, at Kenyon Review.

Originally Published: January 25th, 2018