Norma Cole is a poet, painter and translator. Her recent poetry publications include The Vulgar Tongue, Desire & Its Double and Spinoza in Her Youth, Scout, a text/image work in CD-ROM format. Current translation work includes Danielle Collobert's Journals, Anne Portugal's Nude and Crosscut Universe: Writing on Writing from France. She created 2004-6 Collective Memory, an installation, performance, and publication for "Poetry and its Arts: Bay Area Interactions 1954-2004," California Historical Society, San Francisco, CA. Cole has received a Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation Award, Gertrude Stein Awards, the Robert D. Richardson Non-Fiction Award, as well as awards from the Fund for Poetry. A Canadian by birth, Cole migrated via France to San Francisco where she has lived for over twenty years.
Praise for TO BE AT MUSIC: Essays & Talks:
Norma Cole says that “a poem is a made place, a deedless deed that stakes out or constellates ambiguity without laying claim to it, without attempting to master or contain it.” She has here assembled into a book her long dialogue with many voices, some her own, some the voices of those she loves. These essays are never attempts to master, but they are subtle questioning of various works in various languages, and are impassioned engagements at specific moments in time; many were written as celebrations of writers such as Lorine Niedecker and George Oppen. But the liveliness of mind, constant and thrilling throughout, is the liveliness of Norma Cole herself. Like the person herself, this book is a fabulous companion.
--Bin Ramke, author of Theory of Mind: New and Selected Poems and editor of Denver Quarterly
To read Norma Cole’s wondrous essays is indeed to be at music; her investigations subtle and expansive give us brave and lovely glints of what a writing subjectivity might ideally be. Here is silence’s substance, time’s abrasion, our linguistic possessivity and opening, an engagement with language and —stunningly— with the structure of the essay itself. Cole is as at home with Xenophanes as she is with Dante; her citational presences are flares of thought by which she builds the imaginary community some would banish from the Republic: where poets live, eat, remember, name. Hers is a search past borders rather in defense of them; she knows lucid and ludic are the same word and to be ludic —in or at play— is real resistance. Painting, visuality, translation, prosody, pictures, words, vertigo, time: the reader immerses in these essais, and marvels and is renewed.
In one of her essays—really an insufficient word for these experimental thought-montages—Norma Cole describes translation as “a record of the encounter.” What we get in To Be At Music is the record of Cole’s profound encounters with the works and lives of Oppen, Blanchot, H.D., Niedecker, Jabès, Blaser; the paintings of Stanley Whitney and Marjorie Welish; the hard facts of contemporary history. What marks all these pieces is a marvelous openness. Instead of delivering neatly packaged conclusions, Cole invites us to participate in her thought process, to become active collaborators in the making of meaning.
--Erin Moure, author of My Beloved Wager and Little Theatres
--Raphael Rubinstein, author of Polychrome Profusion: Selected Art Criticism 1990-2002 and art critic for Art in America