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Cole Swensen reads from Landscapes on a Train

Landscapes on a Train is a beautiful book to hold and look at. Nightboat Books, I think, did a wonderful job publishing it. And the book is full of remarkable poems that make opening it worthwhile. I typed out at random the four poems below from pages twelve to fifteen whose succeeding repetitions of sense and sound any reader can hear and see: the T in train becomes the T in tree, the D in dark darkness, image and the sound of that image becomes something else, metamorphic, birds smalled down to words, an adjective become a verb as one poem becomes another exciting and alive.

The reflection on the window across is almost as sharp in the dark and the light
Runs aground. Caves in in little chips. Like birds. Birds smalled down to words
Come back. Flowered in cloud. Out like somewhere on that lives.

Trains pass behind a screen of trees, trees blind and leaving trees. Nothing is so
White as what is seen in the dark against a darkness that replaces space and wavers
In pieces, a landscape almost held. Small by the landed tree. By things that move
More slowly than trees.

Renders night through rain. Ricochets. Away from the dark and from the perfect. Light
Leaves the perfect. There in the dark. Animals move smoothly along their chosen paths.

A road disappears, a curve, that in curving, carves. Cows along. A graze it comes
Close if this precise and loud the birds besides, cried alive, are off, they are from
Now on, twenty blind spots in the black trees alight.

Listen to Cole Swensen read from Landscapes on a Train. Be here. Look out. Take in.


Landscapes on a Train is published by Nightboat Books. You can check them out here:


Cole Swensen. Photo by Carl Sokolow


  1. fabulous, these lyric observations, lilting and delicate, somehow seem to distill the act of seeing thanks

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