One of my favorite painting titles is Willem de Kooning’s Door to the River, in part because it seems to me the appropriate title to every work of art, as such. In Cole Swenson’s new poem, “Opened Are,” the strange anagrammatical title reminds me of that door, and how poetry is always a kind of privileged, holy entrance — off center, overheard. The poet’s breaks and spacing, the primordial nouns of skin, carve, animal, hill, rain, each combines to exert a gravity of attention that is hard to place but ultimately planted firmly enough I believe somewhere inside the house of being. That poetry can afford this absolute attention remains a total gift.
—Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Editor
At first it was a star in going there a mark and the skin opened, open carve
the route all west the route through bone will be less open then and we’ll break
the map on a wheel of home and home will roll down the long hill and home
rolled down the long hill and was never heard from again. Start again.
It was a fine summer morning and we ignored the rain. it was fine, it finely,
and the final thing said, what said to end will be less open and then we break
every little thing, everything small, all of it.
at first would shout, a shout as round. Rounded on
as if an animal there, as if there were all the animals found
there was nothing here. Is the end of, could find in, we wanted an
animal a little less the tooth set, could forge on. We had hopes then
was an age of, so forge the beat and beat and slowly
the heated form. Who dreamed
wrenched. And the new shape shuddered on. Or simply shut
Slam. Start again: Again a man
herded a series of animals across an open plain, open animals, they say
I have in my hand an animal that will not open now.