Don Coles

Don Coles lives in Toronto. Someone Has Stayed in Stockholm: New and Selected Poems was published by Arc in 1995. His collection Kurgan was published in 2000.

Poem: ‘Places’

Don Coles, 17 December 2009

I was sitting in a booth in the Copenhagen Student Union’s Café reading Art Buchwald’s column in the Paris edition Of the Herald Tribune when a careful voice coming from Just above the partition asked: ‘Could you tell me the time, Please?’ This was about forty years ago when I was not as Ramshackle as I am now and was wearing a watch, which I no longer seem to...

Poem: ‘Kingdom’

Don Coles, 5 March 1998

Around six, six-thirty these late winter days I’m usually walking home across Lawrence fields, couple of blocks from here. Make a point of checking on the rink, the afternoon hockey guys finished now and the last light fading off it, though you can easily spot the gone-silent sprayed brakings and prodigal wheelings incised on the glow. I like it best when the Zamboni’s out there...

Poem: ‘Botanical Gardens’

Don Coles, 4 September 1997

Here’s a handy Arcadia, let’s go in. Rich loamy smell, heavy fronds – I’ll hold this one up while you bend through. Frangula siliquastrum – fissured trunk, glossy blunt leaves, and what an odd angle to this low branch, jutting forward like a warning arm. Abandon hope, short people. Loamy smell, damp clumps of humus, encroaching blunt leaves – and this...

Forests of the medieval world, that’s where her mind will wander the three dissertation years, lucky girl – Forest of Bleu, which crowded around the walls of Paris and stretched 10,000 leagues in every direction; the great Hercynian forests of East Prussia, from which each year 334 drovers bore the logs for the fires in the Grand Duke’s castles of Rostock, of Danzig and,...

Driving in the car with her Was wonderful! So close – He loved, without any rush To say so,

Those guileless uncoverings of Legs getting in, their confidential Jostlings as long as he kept His foot down, the car

Moving in the tunnel of itself Narrowing their options to Crossing or uncrossing, or just Dumbly offering themselves

Usually neatly together, which was Fine, or now and then...

Poem: ‘Jealousy’

Don Coles, 17 March 1988

No, he never saw her so, his wife naked Under her dress in trifling talk With somebody in that dark garden Down there – but he thought it. If he could trade this in For a sadder thought he would. Now any pause by day or night Lights it up inside, her body’s gentle Tips and declivities Unshadow the world, he can’t believe Such bliss escapes anybody. There must be another day...


Don Coles, 5 June 1986

I must declare an interest in this particular Thomas. Dylan, R.S., above all the heart-inscribed Edward – these I admire, respect, claim. D.M. I have had little luck with.

I dreamt last night of my own Death. As I died, I became the Wren Library in Nevile’s Court in Trinity College, Cambridge. Dying, The library became even more Luminous, its splendid thinly leaded Clerestory windows were lighting up Even more valuably.

I tried to phone a cab To go downtown but the line went Dead!

My wife was moved. She had A new friend already, however.

Sophie S., a...


Speedy on the Draw

8 November 2012

Will Self is surely right about Northrop Frye’s speed on the draw (LRB, 8 November). Frye, who lectured at me during five years of English studies fifty years ago, came second in a speed-typing competition in Chicago at the age of 17 or so. Along with his contemporary Marshall McLuhan he was so good at everything he touched or uttered (the two of them made a brilliant double-act, outclassing...

The Shudder

13 May 2010

My expectations of pieces by Frank Kermode are, by now, such that when one comes along on any contents page it’s the first I turn to. I think, though, that ‘Eliot and the Shudder’ (LRB, 10 June) merits more than my private appreciation.What I tend to do when I find myself enjoying an article to the point that I decide it will join an uncounted but plentiful number of other pieces...

Tennis Lessons

1 July 1999

Edward Said (LRB, 1 July) is entirely justified in complaining about the unbridgeable gulf that now exists between even a decent amateur player and a professional, a gulf which, although it certainly existed back in faux-amateur days, could at least be stared across and once in a while, for a couple of hours, jumped over. In some inexact year of the early Twenties, before my time though not much before,...

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