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Poetry General

How We All Swiftly

The First Six Books

by (author) Don Coles

Vehicule Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2005
General, Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2005
    List Price

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How We All Swiftly: The First Six Books brings together the best of Don Coles's early work, from the long- unavailable poems in Sometimes All Over (1975), Anniversaries (1979), and The Prinzhorn Collection (1982) to much-acclaimed book-length poems K in Love (1987) and Little Bird (1991). With an incisive introduction by critic and professor emeritus W.J. Keith, this overdue reissue of Coles's career-defining collections--collections whose austere, tender, insouciant, sad-lit clarity reinvented Canadian poetry--will allow readers to glimpse the evolution and shaping of a major career.

How We All Swiftly will be the first volume in a celebratory two-part overview of Don Coles's literary writings.

About the author

Don Coles was born April 12, 1927, in the town of Woodstock, Ontario.

Coles entered Victoria College at the University of Toronto in 1945. He did a four-year history degree, then a two-year M.A. in English, spending two undergraduate summers in Trois-Pistoles, Quebec, learning French, and one summer travelling in Europe. He had several courses with Northrop Frye and Marshall McLuhan, whom he recalls as the best teachers of his life. In between the two M.A. years, he spent a year in London working in a bookstore, then enrolled at Cambridge from 1952 to 1954, and upon graduating was awarded a British Council grant to live in Florence for a year. It was in Stockholm that he met Heidi Golnitz of Lubeck, Germany, whom he eventually married; they lived in Copenhagen and Switzerland before coming to Canada with their daughter in 1965 -- supposedly for a visit, but they stayed.

It was only around 1967, in tandem with teaching, that Coles began writing poems. His first collection appeared in 1975 when he was forty-seven. It was followed quietly by several others, but he resisted becoming any kind of public poet-persona. He was sixty-five when Forests of the Medieval World won Canada's premier literary award. As a poet, Coles has always marched to his own drummer. He was never enamoured of the modernist poets, looking instead to what he has termed the 'Hardy-Larkin line', those who were able to move their art back towards accessibility and the general reader. Besides his ten poetry collections, Coles has, since retirement, published a novel and a collection of essays and reviews, and translated a late collection by the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer.

Coles resides in Toronto, but has lived close to twenty years in western Europe, with sojourns in Munich, Hamburg, and Zurich besides cities already mentioned. A deeply private man, he lists family first among his pleasures.

Don Coles' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"No poet captures the quicksilver twists and turns of our tongues and thoughts more exactly and more memorably than Coles; few can be as exacting or demanding in what they commit to print. Most of all it is Coles's mastery of syntax, sinuous and unpredictable, that places his poetry among the very best being written in English." --Globe and Mail

"The verbal stretch that gives Coles's poetry its adventuring thrill is world class ... he has outgrown us and deserves an international readership." --Montreal Gazette

Other titles by Don Coles