Thoughtful and intelligent, the poems in Flight are still fully embodied, rooted entirely in the senses, and extending Coles’s ongoing examination of the big questions: What is the relation of art and science? What are our different ways of knowing, and how do we participate in and understand them? What are the potentials and limitations of perception and intuition? What is the relationship between the perceiver and the perceived, and can the boundaries between them be broken down? And never least, What what does all this tell us about our capacity for love and pleasure, and how does love influence the ways we address the other questions? These poems are deeply engaged with the pleasures of the sensuous, treating thought itself as a sensual activity, as a kind of passion in its own right. William Carlos Williams said, “No ideas but in things”; Coles seems to want to assert that there is no thing—moon, bat, moth, dog, beloved husband—that will not give rise to ideas, and, very often, to pleasure at the same time. More than anything, pleasures are what the poems seek to create and enact—the pleasures of the flesh, yes; and of the mind that is also of the flesh, and that is so present in the poems.
Katharine Coles’s fifth poetry collection, The Earth Is Not Flat (Red Hen Press, 2013), was written under the auspices of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program; ten poems from the book, translated into German by Klaus Martens, appeared in the summer 2014 issue of the journal Matrix. She has also published two novels. Recent poems and prose have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Seneca Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Image, Crazyhorse, Ascent, and Poetry. A professor at the University of Utah, in 2009–10 she served as the inaugural director of the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute. She has received grants and awards from the NEA, the NEH and, in 2012–13, the Guggenheim Foundation.
“There is a remarkable worldly ease to the poems of Katharine Coles’s new collection, Flight. Travel always focuses one’s powers of observation, but Katharine Coles always bring to her work a naturalist’s powers of precise discrimination—her poems are both acute and visionary in their perceptions. Whether writing poems of love to her husband or to the beings around her, Katharine Coles finds a way to make our world new for us, again and again.”—David St. John
“‘Who says there is no magic in the world?’ writes Katharine Coles in Flight, her stunning new collection of poems. Within these pages you will find a cabinet of luminous wonders, gathered and deftly arranged by a master wordsmith and explorer of ancient worlds, hidden caves, and the intricacies of the human heart. This is an extraordinary book.”
—Mira Bartok, author of The Memory Palace
“From the Pancake batfish to the pocket inside the pocket, Katharine Coles collects exotica and renders it part of the interior landscape. She’s ‘after beauty’ and collects images, objects, forms, words that catch the mind and tongue. And to what end? Hers is not an art of mere accumulation but of creating spaces that accommodate complexity without sacrificing love for the world and for, well, the lover. . . . Poetry is a means to see what kinds of minds our time is creating. This one, suffused equally with song and science, clarity and multiplicity, shows just what kind of wonderful instrument poetry can be for fine-tuning consciousness, for being true to the tension between the limits and reach of knowledge.”
—Alison Hawthorne Deming