Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire – Henri Cole, Boston
The parlour confession.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi; photo courtesy (unless specified otherwise)–Henri Cole]
One of the great living poets working today, Henri Cole is the author of many poetry collections. His most recent book, Blizzard: Poems, was published in 2020. In his 60s, Mr Cole generously gives a vivid glimpse of his intimate world through photos–his twitter timeline at @ColeHenri is a must-read. According to the Poetry Foundation website, he has served as the executive director of the Academy of American Poets, and was poetry editor of the New Republic. He has taught at Ohio State University, Harvard University, and Yale University. He lives in Boston and teaches at Claremont McKenna College. His poems have been translated into several languages, including into French by celebrated poet Claire Malroux, who has also translated the works of Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens. Mr Cole’s memoir is titled Orphic Paris. He gamely became a part of the Proust Questionnaire series in which folks from diverse backgrounds are nudged to make “Parisian parlour confessions”, all to explore our distinct lives and experiences.
Your favorite virtue or the principal aspect of your personality
Your favorite qualities in a man
Men and women are alike, except in one department.
Your favorite qualities in a woman
I admire those who seek to create something rather than assert power over others.
Your chief characteristic
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Loyalty and truthfulness. Sometimes they conflict.
Your main fault
Your favorite occupation
Do you mean activity? If so, swimming.
Your idea of happiness
Freedom with a little structure (to avoid boredom—a sign of low intelligence).
Your idea of misery or what would be your greatest misfortune?
Sleeplessness. Nothing to eat or read. No water. Poverty.
If not yourself, who would you be?
Where would you like to live?
Your favourite colour and flower
Robin egg blue. Peonies.
Your favorite bird
Bushtit, about the weight of four paper-clips.
Your favorite prose authors
Forster and Kawabata. Camus and Chatwin. Colette and Cather. Sebald. Alice Munro, Mary Gaitskill, Joyce Carol Oates and Jamaica Kincaid.
Your favorite poets
Hopkins, Herbert, Heaney. Bishop and Lowell. Gunn, Merrill, Swenson. Bidart and Glück.
Your favorite heroe in fiction
Augustin Meaulnes in Alain-Fournier’s The Wanderer.
Your favorite heroine in fiction
All Colette’s women.
Your favorite composers
Your favorite painters
Charles Burchfield, Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell. Piero della Francesca. Morandi. Sargent. Vija Celmins. Caravaggio.
Your heroes/heroines in real life
Doctors. Translators. Teachers. ACT UP.
What characters in history do you most dislike?
Most recently, Trump and the MAGA crowd.
Your heroines in World history
Your favorite food and drink
Ginger snaps. Potato chips. Cornbread. Chicken Milanese. Cacio e pepe.
Your favorite names
Julian, Sebastien, Oliver.
What do you hate the most?
The military event you admire the most
The Singing Air Force Sargents.
The reform you admire the most
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with
Sparkle like the Eiffel Tower.
How do you wish to die?
What is your present state of mind?
Faults for which you have the most tolerance
I despise tardiness and stinginess. Why must I tolerate faults?
Your motto in life
A writer of private feelings
1a. In Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris–photo by Parisbylaure
1. Poet, writing
2. With Lazarus
3. With poet Seamus Heaney
4. Blue Mountain swimming
5. In 1978
6. In 2009-© Claudia Gianvenuti for the Civitella Ranieri Foundation
7. At his writing desk–© Marco Giugliarelli for the Civitella Ranieri Foundation