Hailed by Harold Bloom as "a central poet of his generation," Henri
Cole declares that "to write what is human" is his primary goal.
At times severe, always attentive, and extremely lyrical, his poetry
takes on that task, seeking the core of diverse human experiences.
Henri Cole was born in Japan to American parents. He received his B.A. from the
College of William and Mary in 1978, his M.A. from the University of Wisconsin
(Milwaukee) in 1980, and his M.F.A. from Columbia University in 1982. From 1982
to 1988, he served as the executive director of the Academy of American Poets.
Before coming to Smith, he taught at Columbia, Reed, Yale, Harvard, and Brandeis,
among other places. Cole is the recipient of many honors and awards, including
the Rome Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Cole's four books of poetry have been praised extensively. The New Yorker review
of his third book, The Look of Things, describes his range: "he can understate,
can step back with courtly distance from the scene he is describing; in stanzas
as shapely as topiary he can salute a visual world he honestly loves; he can
write about the soul stumbling against quotidian impediments." In her article "Poetry
Read in Canoes," Phoebe Pettingell characterizes Cole as a poet whose work is
at once accomplished and "happily accessible." Of The Visible Man, Cole's
most recent book, she writes, "This is no emotional striptease; it is a brave,
even graceful attempt to find what is most vulnerable underneath all the armor
and stage props we use to buttress our egos…. Henri Cole speaks plainly,
which is refreshing. More important, he strikes us as candid, trying to come
as close to complicated truths as possible."