Henri Cole on the enemies within
And why they’re a gift
Welcome to the latest issue of Subtle Maneuvers, my fortnightly newsletter on wriggling through a creative life. If today’s issue resonates with you, please consider becoming a paying subscriber for $5/month or $30/year. This newsletter wouldn’t be possible without reader support.
Henri Cole (b. 1956)
I ended a recent issue of this newsletter by wondering, not for the first time, whether my continual feeling of frustration with the writing process is pointless and counterproductive—some have argued as much—or if all my flailing about is actually informing the work at some core level and making it better. I hope and suspect that the latter is true, and I received some welcome confirmation of this hunch recently via Henri Cole’s 2018 book Orphic Paris, which I impulse-purchased at my favorite used bookstore a couple weeks ago.
Cole is an American poet, but Orphic Paris is a work of prose, riffing on the sights and sounds of the City of Light and their rich literary and personal associations for the author. It’s the kind of book that can include digressions on friendship, solitude, beekeeping, Sylvia Plath, Rainer Maria Rilke, dogs vs. cats, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, taxidermy, and Impressionism and still feel like a unified whole (a feat that I would like to learn how to pull off in my own work).
The confirmation that I was craving came on the heels of a passage about friendship and how it’s sustained Cole as a writer. Next he pivots to the opposite of friendship: