After These Messages

After These Messages

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Author: Sean Cole

Publisher: Lunar Chandelier Press (2022)

Sean Cole's After These Messages is built around a series of poems written on the fly. Like Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems, written during his lunch breaks at MOMA, Cole wrote poems while watching TV advertisements. Like ads, the poems are speedy and compressed, packed with argument and imagery, sometimes sublime, sometimes hilarious, but always bordering on the hallucinatory. They weave in and out of the dramedy of this fine collection—interstitial featurettes that punctuate the action of what you sat down to watch in the first place. Cole's music is rapid percussions, flipped utterances that mean at least five things all at once.

Ads don't wait for you; you have to catch up to them. A hallmark of Cole's poems is how quickly they can suggest a whole story, and a second or third version of that story, before veering into a whole new train of associations. You don't sit down to read a Cole poem; you glimpse it through the window of the subway car passing your subway car in a tunnel between stations. When a computer's autocorrect function confuses one word for another, the "mistake" is incorporated. Both words are reported as apt. Accidents become decisions. Readers watch as the poems improvise themselves in real time. Sometimes, the ending isn't clear until the lights blink out suddenly.

After These Messages marries the plain-spokenness of one of public radio's most esteemed storytellers, with the buoyant fabulism of O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, and Kenward Elmslie and recent cohorts Ange Mlinko, Jim Behrle and John Colleti, all restless innovators within a New York School Boston trajectory. Unlike a lot of experimental poetry that reads like a lab report of the experiment, Cole's poetry pulls the reader into the exuberant middle of the experiment, so that we can experience the doubled pleasure of mystery mixed with discovery.

"If you think poets, Sean Cole is there in the company of clowns: Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, Arthur Rimbaud, Sharon Mesmer, Pablo Picasso (you didn't know Picasso wrote poetry? How little you know!) Sean is home here. He is also home in a Boston streetcar, a New York subway, and in Toronto Canada. Yes, he can make a swift and colorful portrait of Canada in chalk like a street artist, and it's all there, rivers, beef, round bellies, coins and vastness ... here are all kinds of string in his ball of yarn: colorful, emotional, fresh string off the sheep of actuality heading for the cliff. . . .These poems are truly delighted to be read, and delightful to read."

–Andrei Codrescu 

"Sean Cole maps the landscape of where we really, truly live: inside our heads. It's here that we rut in memory and desire. It's here where daydreams happen alongside remorseful thoughts—hopeful ones, too. Like his poem "One Train," where New York subways joyfully tangle like candy shoelaces, these poems capture the spontaneous, irrational, ever-alive stream of human consciousness. Here are the private thoughts behind the public voice."

–Jonathan Goldstein