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Soft Power

Soft Power

88 pages
Published:   September 24, 2019
Poetry  /  icehouse poetry
Paperback:   9781773101088    $19.95

Watch out for those who have, seek, and hold onto power.

So drink
As the fanged stoat from the rabbit's nape
As though from a flagon of river water
Shaken with ancestral ash
As if it isn't knowledge you seek
But some osmotic soul-food
To be filled up with blurs
That might later resolve themselves
Into memories
To return to where you really live
With changes in your blood

Lyrical yet shot through with experimental and political veins, the poems in Soft Power are engaged with both the here-and-now of a world on the brink and the hope of something better, a planet where "generations hence / Inactivists will bathe under a sun made safe / By the collapse of oil-can economics."

Traversing badlands, sandhills, prairies, suburbia, Miami, London, Dublin, Paris, and beyond, Cole's voice revels in questions of travel while resonating with the unheimlich "Canadalienation" of his expatriate existence. Whether bog surfing, gallery hopping, bug hunting, or meditating on the "strange genre" of national anthems, the poems in Cole's long-awaited follow-up collection to his critically acclaimed Questions in Bed exist in a searching exchange with the world, both entering and being entered by it.
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Stewart Cole is the author of Questions in Bed, which Salty Ink named as one of the Dozen Best Books of Canadian Poetry from 2012, as well as the chapbooks Sirens and Alien Freight. He grew up in the Rideau Valley, south of Ottawa, and spent time living and writing in Victoria, Montréal, Fredericton, London, and Toronto before moving to the US Midwest. Cole is now an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, teaching English and creative writing. He may be found at Soft Power is his second full-length collection of poetry.


"The voice in Stewart Cole's Soft Power is like an animal turning circles in high grass, prepping the ground prior to bedding down. Agitated, aware, and nowhere at home, these poems know why they're adrift, uprooted, abandoned to a transcient language of visitor, caretaker, scribe, and witness." — Ken Babstock, author of On Malice

"Soft Power is an ars inveniendi, an 'undirected love' for the world that refuses the falsifying aspirational ubiquity of late capitalism in favour of a mutual mediation between subject and object. With a critical eye growing weary of 'needing to be useful' and sensing 'what is is more than what's here,' this restless, wry rumination has no expectations, leaving readers to wonder if they're alive in the same negatively capable way. Stewart Cole's poetry is a kind of doubt, still in search for what might humanize us in a barbaric age." — Nyla Matuk, author of Stranger

"Soft Power accomplishes what I thought was no longer possible. It is political without being prescriptive; it is clear without being simplistic, it is sure of itself without being sure of its conclusions." — The Fiddlehead