- Birthday, Poetry, Reading, Writing

From the Archives: Two Poems, by Cole Swensen

Happy birthday, Cole Swensen! Celebrate by reading these Swensen poems we published in 2023! And then read the Swensen poems we published in 2019!



From the train window, the sheep are at peace, and who wouldn’t be, late in the sun, their light slanting the shadows into which they gradually slide, thus slipping into something larger, cooler, darker—it’s a move that leaves an invisible yet indelible mark, one that says I loved this, long before and long after it’s gone.

A child, nine or ten, standing at a window looking down on a city street is an anchor—into or back toward—or endlessly the archive of—so much—mythology, perhaps—auspices and auguries—as simple as it is, the child thinks, the window’s transparency is precisely its incomprehensibility—and then, oh, I see, she says, and truthfully, and the window is gone.

But I have loved everyone. Because I was raised in a room largely of windows. And outward of them, their views. A view can, in itself, enable love—and in itself can prove it. We’re in and of an age that demands proof—and then that little explosion in the trees—it’s just a bunch of birds, perhaps, though that might be too illustrative.


Stairs & Windows

Something happening on a spiral stair spirals the air there, and the green out the window gives in to the swirl, turning into fall, and a gust of falling leaves bursts in through the open window, spinning down through the stairwell just as the stairs themselves are winding their way upward.

The stairs, again spiral, and beyond them, the window, which again is open, and so a breeze follows that spiral downward, revolving the window on its vertical axis, as well as the person out there on the sidewalk, reflected in it, who is now heading off in the opposite direction.

That stair where you never expected it—up the core of a pear, for instance, or, suddenly, there instead of your little finger, and now responsible for the future.


  • ​Cole Swensen is the author of seventeen collections of poetry, most recently On Walking On (Nightboat, 2017), Gave (Omnidawn, 2017), and Landscapes on a Train (Nightboat 2015), and a volume of critical essays. Her poetic collections turn around specific research projects, including ones on public parks, visual art, illuminated manuscripts, and ghosts. Her work has won the National Poetry Series, the Iowa Poetry Prize, the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award, and the PEN USA Award in Literary Translation. A former Guggenheim Fellow, she is the co-editor of the Norton anthology American Hybrid and the founding editor of La Presse Poetry. She teaches at Brown University.

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