Booklist Online Exclusive: May 26, 2017

On Walking On.

Swensen, Cole (Author)
May 2017. 120 p. Nightboat, paperback, $16.95. (9781937658663). 811.

Known for incisive book-length explorations of single subjects—hands, in The Book of a Hundred Hands (2005); gardens, in Ours (2008); ghosts, in Gravesend (2012)—here, in her sixteenth collection, professor and translator Swensen probes the profound bond between writing and walking. Weaving works of influential authors, from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Lisa Robertson’s “Seven Walks,” into luminous meditations, Swensen follows Thoreau through a “cathedral of trees”; Sand through the “iridescent hum” of a French riverside; and Woolf through London, lamp-lit at dusk. But Swensen walks alone, too, and she intersperses these singular, paragraph-long musings throughout. Whether she’s contemplating cats and the creative process, language and landscapes, or centuries of fleeting yet extraordinary moments, Swensen remains an adept observer and a master of striking forms and line breaks. In “The Second Walk,” Swensen attests “the beautiful is also real, often / accidental, often in the middle of a phrase, a street, a day.” And though there’s nothing accidental about them, Swensen’s phrases, glowing with incandescent imagery and searching wit, are themselves vividly real things of beauty.

Briana Shemroske