The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 27, 2010

Booktalk with Henri Cole

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: In March, the poet Henri Cole answered questions from staff members at Ohio State University, where he is a professor, for their website feature "Booktalk." Cole's latest book, Pierce the Skin: Selected Poems, was published by FSG in March. In the interview, which can be read in full here, Cole talks about his favorite books, his least favorite books ("those sickening vampire love stories"), what he thinks of The Catcher in the Rye, and which works of literature have most helped him in his life. // Adam Eaglin

pierce the skin What book would you most want your kids to read? What would you want them NOT to read?
I’d want them to read the ancient myths. There are some very nice illustrated editions. I’d want them also to read lots of poetry to appreciate the English language. I wouldn’t want them to read those sickening vampire love stories.

What classic novel was a disappointment to you?
You’ll hate me, but I didn’t like The Catcher in the Rye. I wasn’t a normal teenager.

What genre of literature do you prefer to read (history, fiction, biography, etc.) and why?
My feelings are hurt that you didn’t mention poetry. I like poetry and editions of letters.

What magazines do you subscribe to and why?
The New Yorker, The Threepenny Review, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Bon Appétit and The New York Review of Books.

What books have helped you most in your career?
“Career” is not a word I like. Books that have helped me in my life are James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, Susan Sontag’s The Way We Live Now, William Maxwell’s The Folded Leaf, and David Plante’s The Francoeur Novels. They all transcribe something of what it is to be a young homosexual in America.

Related: If you're in or around Seattle, you can catch Henri Cole at the Elliott Bay Book Company on May 7. 

Below, Henri Cole reads the poem "Twilight" from his previous collection Blackbird and Wolf.


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