(Solve for) X

Katharine Coles

Coles’s eighth collection probes the X of the unknown and of gender chromosomes with provocative smarts and sensitivity.

Katharine Coles’s (Solve for) X opens a window in a room we did not realize was stuffy. The rigidity of knowledge yields to the beauty of the search, which is both captivating and mysterious. Organized as an abecedarium, the poems are couched in spare, emotionally charged diction that plumbs consciousness and moral responsibility. Coles meditates on an imaginary sister, impositions of the body on the mind, and the human mess that remains despite death or disaster. The mastery of how Coles writes and what she knows is matched only by her ease with the uncertain X. In (Solve for) X, she breaks down contrary ideas and reassembles them, harmoniously redesigned.

  • "Katharine Coles’s (Solve for) X is her most ambitious and gorgeously realized book of poems to date, and that’s saying a lot. Her solutions are not so much answers as admixtures of this fine poet’s exceptional ways of knowing—a soulful lyricism with the swirl of a scientist’s precision. Add wit; add play; add formal mastery—and what you have is a wisdom distinctive as it is generous." —David Baker, author of Swift: New and Selected Poems

  • "Enter the dizzy interior’s beautiful aubade of a new world breathing through Katharine Coles. The poet employs casual diction to counterbalance the “fizz and spark” of insights and intellectual fever that ultimately possess the body. Like the universe, the “more you expand, you / Think that hiccup in you spits / Out error, replicating blue,” as Time re-measures itself. Coles reminds us “There is no formula for this,” for her equations of fables and reality’s “Flaming yellow eye” upon us. A precise form of passion underlines all Coles’s work as it reconceptualizes death, desire, and disaster found in a “bed of [our] own making,” in this great philosophical mystery we call life. Pithy and powerful, here’s a book that knows how things “get really interesting when we look.” And she does, in the same way the rose “opens its throat” to sing." —Elena Karina Byrne, author of If This Makes You Nervous

  • "There’s a brilliant accuracy to this book’s every move as it faces huge questions and refuses to be daunted. Or tempted to answer. Instead, it keeps on moving, a side-step here, a two-step there, always a dance of sparkling shifts. With each line break, we hear something click, and something new falls into place, a perfect fit, but one that often upends what’s just been said, turning the preceding into the unprecedented, allowing us to witness the sharp, wry play of a dazzling mind." —Cole Swensen, author of On Walking On