Covering a variety of subjects—from the plague and the first danse macabre to the development of perspective and recipes for pigments—the poems in Cole Swensen's new collection are set in fifteenth-century France and explore the end of the medieval world and its gradual transition into the Renaissance. The collection is loosely based on the calendar illuminations from the Très Riches Heures, the well-known book of hours, and uses them to explore the ways that the arts—visual and verbal—interact with history, at times prefiguring it, at times shaping it, and at times offering wry commentary or commiseration.
“Philosophy, suffering, and beauty come romping through this book, with the hard edge of observation. Poems assembled with care and historicism allow us to see through the beauty to the hardship of medieval life. Cole Swensen achieves a rare poetic task assembling from the medieval past the stones of its identity.”—Barbara Guest
love these trees, three
create the space of
the way that turning your back on