The Stranger I Become: On Walking, Looking, and Writing

Katharine Coles

The Stranger I Become probes the permeable boundary between inner life and outer, thought and action, science and experience. Poet Katharine Coles begins her lyric essays with a meditation on “the urge to move beyond, to understand myself as a stranger, estranged.” The essays travel, always on foot, from Coles’ home with its kept and wild birds, into the canyon her home overlooks, itself populated with creatures ranging from voles to owls, moose, bobcats, and coyotes. From there, always looking, always walking, in the company of the words that move her, they traverse her neighborhood and distant places in this country and the world. All along, they consider the poetry that inhabits her: the winged creatures of Dickinson, Ashbery’s “reflections,” Keats’s “irritable reaching,” Anne Carson’s ever-unreachable apples, and more. Taken together, they make up what Lance Olsen calls “a poetics of the vivid.”

  • "Coles is a true original. ―Tom Sleigh"

  • "Walking as peripatetic philosophy—that’s what these essays enact, wandering in bright, exquisite, perspicacious ways among our myriad blindnesses and insights, through our dissolutions of mind and body, life and the other thing, inviting us all the while to unsteady and strange ourselves into a poetics of the vivid." —Lance Olsen, author of My Red Heaven

  • “This marvelous collection of essays zigzags between close readings of poems by Emily Dickinson, Jorie Graham, and John Ashbery, and reflections on curious phenomena observed and described by scientists in a host of different fields. ‘Now I find no choice but to relax into the strange­ness of voices,’ Coles writes, ‘and to enter, through them, a kind of bliss.’ Inspiring and exhilarating, The Stranger I Become is a hymn to the possibilities of such bliss.” —Christopher Merrill, author of Self-Portrait with Dogwood

  • “Poet Katharine Coles’s passion for travel and looking, her relentless physical and intellectual energy, bear the soul of this sensuous and thought-provoking collection. Joyfully weaving together science, philosophy, art, and poetry, Coles takes us on an intimate journey through her mind’s eye, an active yet unseen reliquary, both sacred and familiar.” —Kathy Fagan, author of Sycamore