Norma Cole is a poet, painter, translator. Among her poetry
books: Mars (Listening Chamber '94), Moira
(O Books '95), and Contrafact (Potes & Poets
'96). Scout, a text/image work, is forthcoming (Krupskaya
'02). Translations include Crosscut Universe: Writing
on Writing from France (Burning Deck '00) and Anne Portugal's
Nude (Kelsey St. Press
'01). She teaches at San Francisco
State University, the University
of San Francisco, and in
the MFA program at Otis College
of Art & Design in Los
Angeles. A Canadian by birth, Cole
migrated via France to San Francisco
where she has lived for the past
Praise for Spinoza In Her Youth
"...mixing verse and prose to trace varying forms of
thought.... [Cole] achieves a rich abstraction that extrapolates
the self's refractions..."
"... a dizzying spectacle of verbal acrobatics....
I admire the sheer
adventure of this collection . . . each [poem] is embedded
moments of emotional clarity that also comment on what it
is to read /
a poem . . . Cole has a delightful talent for illuminating
theory, language and humanity."
"Cole's minding of both fluctuation and coercion delineates
the possibility and compromise of
being numerous, vigilantly."
--Jennifer Scappettone, Poetry Project Newsletter
“…this readerly journey has a kind of ‘genius’
of its own.”
--Patrick F. Durgin, Electronic Poetry Review
“Cole is an unabashedly philosophical poet, as well
as being firmly rooted in her process and boldly juxtaposes
images of the quotidian and ‘subjectivity in the objectification
of the gaze.’”
--Christopher Arigo, Pleiades
“In Cole’s Spinoza, power’s feminine
side is desire, the always doubled power of material forces,
the very act of seeing, the different attributes (the language)
of the same substances. Where power serves to crush by identification
and repression, desire serves to dismantle, not to destroy,
but to liberate through de-idealization, de-identification.
This is the inspirational quality of Spinoza In Her Youth,
the way the ideas do not lead to a state of idealization,
but to the experience of their power to create: as Cole writes, ‘readership,
a polymer.’ Later she adds, ‘How manifestations
come after the end.’”
--Standard Shaefer, Aufgabe
"[Cole] is a poet of consummate intelligence, a deft
and compassionate company..."
"With this volume [Cole] reasserts her position as a
major voice within contemporary poetry."
--Andrew Benjamin, author of Art, Mimesis and the Avant-Garde
and Present Hope.
From Spinoza in Her Youth (pages 37-38)
Excerpt of SPINOZA IN HER YOUTH
In the cavern of a story, a man and his book report.
Guess who I’m going up with?
Who? I pretend, asking not to know. Who has not pretended
She bent lower over her armful of daises.
Caught up in the subjectivity emanating from the extending
phrases of the photographer/writer*, I am first one then
other in this room, now through this reading existing.
The ever present sense of loss is neither sentimental
metaphorical, unless it can be apprehended as a metaphor
“Before I lose it.”
Is she the same person as the little girl who once gathered
by the armful?
Light is the evidence of motion, the trace of gesture.
image of the model then the evidence of stillness, its
It was a small apartment in fact. The dining room became
spare bedroom when his mother-in-law visited. She visited
months every year. Where did she live during the other
months? A fan spins at the ceiling. The woman wearing
with cork soles enters. They are slippers, but she uses
In the dark in a long exposure he writes on her body with
from a certain distance with his left hand as he stands
camera on its tripod. With his right hand he controls
of the exposure. The smell of burning charcoal interferes
Properties and Models:
Afternoons in cities have colors as do voices and faces.
sitting for their portrait seek their subjectivity in
of the gaze of the photographer “How do I look.”
the camera’s inanimate lens, and here is the operator
is of an unprecedented interiority. What to “present”
circumstance. He tells her to look at his hand, an oblique
In fact, he doesn’t believe in it.
*The blind photographer referred to is Evgen Bavcar.