Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1956 and raised in Virginia. He received his BA from the College of William and Mary in 1978, his MA from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee in 1980, and his MFA from Columbia University in 1982.
Cole is the author of Gravity and Center: Selected Sonnets, 1994–2022, forthcoming in 2022 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Orphic Paris (New York Review Books, 2018); Nothing to Declare: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015); Pierce the Skin: Selected Poems, 1982–2007 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010); Blackbird and Wolf (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007), the 2008 recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Middle Earth (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), which received the 2004 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; The Visible Man (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998); The Look of Things (Knopf, 1995); The Zoo Wheel of Knowledge (Knopf, 1989); and The Marble Queen (Macmillan, 1986).
About his own work, Cole writes:
In my own poems, I have grown accustomed to astringency; there is no longer any compulsion to hide or temper the truth, as there was when I was setting out twenty years ago. I do not want to relive what I have felt or seen or hoped along the way, but I do want to extract some illustrative figures, as I do from the parables in the Bible, to help me persevere each day at my writing table, where I must confront myself, overcome any fear of what I might find there, and begin assembling language into poetry.
Cole’s awards and honors include the Berlin Prize of the American Academy in Berlin, the Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
From 1982 until 1988, Cole was the executive director of the Academy of American Poets. Since then he has held many teaching positions and been the artist-in-residence at various institutions, including Smith College, Reed College, Brandeis, Columbia, Harvard, and Yale universities. He currently teaches at Claremont McKenna College and lives in Boston, Massachusetts.