These poems are about gardens, particularly the seventeenth-century French baroque gardens designed by the father of the form, André Le Nôtre. While the poems focus on such examples as Versailles, which Le Nôtre created for Louis XIV, they also explore the garden as metaphor. Using the imagery of the garden, Cole Swensen considers everything from human society to the formal structure of poetry. She looks in particular at the concept of public versus private property, asking who actually owns a garden? A gentle irony accompanies the question because in French, the phrase "le nôtre" means "ours." Whereas all of Le Nôtre's gardens were designed and built for the aristocracy, today most are public parks. Swensen probes the two senses of "le nôtre" to discover where they intersect, overlap, or blur.
A Garden Is a Start
Leaving the Middle Ages
The Birth of Landscape Architecture
The Garden as Architecture Itself
The Garden as Extension
In an Effort to Make the Garden a Standing Proof
Certain Principles Must Be Observed
A Garden Occurs in Four Stages
A Garden as a Letter
A Garden as Between
A Garden as a Unit of Measure
Euclid's Eighth Theorem
Because a Garden Must End
If a Garden of Numbers
Further Notes on the Collusion of Time and Space
Charles Le Brun (1619-1690)
Labyrinths and Mazes
The Luxembourg Gardens
Versailles the Unfurled
The Divinity of the Sun King
The Garden as a Map of Louis XIV
Le Nôtre's Drawings
And the Birds, Too
The Ghost of Much Later
"YOU ARE A HAPPY MAN, LE NÔTRE"
The Gardened Heart
Tuileries, January 2007
Keeping Track of Distance
Cole Swensen is the author of eleven previous books of poetry. She is also a translator and has won the PEN USA Award in Literary Translation. Her poetry has won the Iowa Poetry Prize and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award, and she teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
"A remarkably adept, even facile craftsperson--I know of no poet who makes the most stunning verbal effects on the page look more effortless. Her critical assumptions, literary strategies and approach to the text clearly place her among the finest post-avant poets we now have."—Ron Silliman, author of The Age of Huts (compleat)
Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Awards, Los Angeles Times
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