Kurgan by Don ColesKurgan by Don Coles


byDon Coles

Paperback | April 15, 2000

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`Kurgan is the work of a poet who has mastered the full range of his voice,' commented [Trillium English-language jurors Kim Echlin, Andrew Pyper and Michael Redhill. `It is a collection that seems at times easily elegant in its language, but that at the same time plumbs the depths of human experience.'

Don Coles was born April 12, 1927, in the town of Woodstock, Ontario. Coles entered Victoria College at the University of Toronto in 1945. He did a four-year history degree, then a two-year M.A. in English, spending two undergraduate summers in Trois-Pistoles, Quebec, learning French, and one summer travelling in Europe. He had several...
Title:KurganFormat:PaperbackDimensions:112 pages, 8.71 × 5.6 × 0.35 inPublished:April 15, 2000Publisher:Porcupine's QuillLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0889842116

ISBN - 13:9780889842113

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Read from the Book

Kurgan No. 10Here on this endless steppe the burial mounds seemslow sails on a flat sea. Keep staringand you'll know they're stalled. Almost all wereplundered, big surprise, long ago, passing Cossacks orthe local tomb-fanciers have had close ontwo thousand years to disturb these peaces -- the only puzzle is how no. 10 escaped them.But escape them it did, until now. Theymust have been tipped off, warned off,a thin and mephitic smoke wavering forthfrom nos. 9 and 11 maybe, deaths of diggers,a famous malediction. Whatever the reason,she survived -- saving herself for the standardbright immensities ahead, perhaps -- saving herself, I have improperly, basely, surmised, for me. When we openedthe square pit of her precocious sleepthe gold about her head startled us. It wasa sort of diadem-cum-headdress, andthe gold-foil stags and birds and treesrippled in that first air as thoughnot just stags and birds and trees wereshaking stillness off but she too wastesting her delicate bones -- as thougheverything we had rudely uncovered hereknew that a long lull was ending.She was Sarmatian, probably a princess,and young. About twenty, the consensus was.Her neck was encircled by a rigid collarof chiselled gold, ornamented with a seriesof unknown magical creatures -- dragons fighting against what seemed to bemonkeys wearing armour and holding clubs.Towards the front of the collar was, inthe words of our historian/curator, `one of thoseworks of art which, once seen, carry out a smallbut irreversible coup in the mind' -- in less lapidary terms, a man, cross-leggedand golden-bearded, of serene aspect,holding a cup in his two hands, certainlyinteresting (and shortly thereafter the approvedsubject of a doctoral thesis in Rostov anda less-ambitious work by one of my ownstudents at the Institute) but `not quite',as our Director remarked while gazinginexactly towards the historian/curatorover lunch, `Rilke's archaic Apollo'. I'm surethey'll work it out. As for that coup, I disagreedonly in the detail. That tableau so unsparinglyvivant as she lies down, again and again, involuntarily,on her back, is a loop running incessantlyover my pages, running now as I write this,lights and shadows over the text, and I havenot the smallest idea how to stop it. I havewalked this plain a hundred times, a thousand,since I was named to this post, tendingmy inconsequential thoughts and staringat the stalled fleet, the paused convoy -- and all the while `the poor princess', as theyhave begun to call her, was waiting. Waitingto give me her treasure, waiting to give methe enigma of her life and especially of herdeath (a darkness I may spend the restof my own life in close engagement with),and at the end, when there was nothing else,waiting to give me what was left ofher twenty-year-old body. What to dowith such Sehnsucht? I may have becomeirreversibly hers. There was a mentionof delicate bones. Not quite all her boneswere there. Some of the very most delicatefingertip bones, called phalanges, were missing.Archaeologists are divided on this: some believethat the phalanges are commonly gnawed offand removed by mice not long after the burial,this is the problem, they say, with chamberedgraves without coffins. Others maintainthat the fingertips were ritually severedimmediately after death, the purpose of thisbeing to ensure that the living will not have tofear the touch of the dead. It's this last one I would choose.I couldn't bear the idea of the mice.

From Our Editors

Take a journey around the Black Sea with this exciting collection of poetry. In Kurgan, Don Coles presents the follow-up collection to Forests of the Medieval World. It begins with a distinctly Canadian flavour as the opening poem describes a Zamboni driver on a Toronto hockey rink. These poems range from haunting and unpredictable to hopeful and thought provoking, all guaranteed to keep the reader’s attention. Coles’ other poetry collections include The Prinzhorn Collection, Landslides and K. in Love.

Editorial Reviews

`As if in answer to those who have found his kind of craftsmanship un-Canadian, Coles opens with a celebration of a particularly homespun kind of artist. Here is the poet as a regular guy walking home and checking on the rink, discovering a boy out there alone driving the Zamboni:... I like it best when the Zamboni'sout there doing its ignored choreography,blue lights glittering and the kid's dark headturning to neither one side or the other, justintent on getting it right. Around one end andup the middle and peel off, down the sideand up the pure broadening middle again,lights glittering, kid's silhouette watching ahead.`Like that of his Zamboni driver, Coles' art is all deftness and understatement, never trying too hard, no flourishes till the end (``the perfect thing's just about ready again'') and our final glance up to see what the title was, the title that says it all: Kingdom.'