Temple Cone


The poems of Temple Cone are firmly rooted in the ancient dictum of Heraclitus: the way up and the way down are one. Here are poems that demonstrate, again and again, that the only way to reach the other world, the world of visions and ecstasies, is to go further into the brilliant muck and mire of this one. Here are poems with "a sacred hunger to scorch / acres of gold into brass burn / just for the savage wonder of it." Here, in convincing lines, is a psalm.

          – Joseph Fasano, author of The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing

Temple Cone has proven clarity, profundity, and levity are not mutually exclusive wishes for poetry. Figures from world literature, philosophy, music, and religious tradition seem equally relieved to inhabit the poetic landscapes in which they first thrived, drinking deeply from the natural world, recalling the names of plants and the traits of animals, looking to the heavens for signs. Poured forth in compelling three-step stanzas, guzzle's deep structure is a fluid but forceful rule of return, and these poems are springs the traveler will resolve to pause by again and again.

          – Kevin McFadden, author of Hardscrabble

“The stories always get it wrong,” Temple Cone tells us in these ecstatic lyrics.  The stories are the Greeks', and what’s always been wrong is point of view, the masculine gaze, the silence of the beloved.  Through the familiar pairings of Orpheus and Eurydice, Hades and Persephone, Hippomenes and Atalanta, Odysseus and his many counterparts—Penelope, Nausicaa, Circe, Calypso—Temple Cone makes the stories right.  He creates a series of duets, polyphony where there was only the single voice before.  Love is both night and daybreak, “that singing in the darkness.”  Each poem is our guide between the underworld and the wide green fields above. 

          – Jehanne Dubrow, author of Stateside

Temple Cone’s The Broken Meadow sings a pliant song, agile in shape-changing through a garden of forms, notably the sonnet, where it finds a structured music, erupting into longer freer narrative poems, and carving through to heart’s image without ornament.  Through all of this variation of poetic strategy and effect there beats a steady heart of realization that embodies real devotion, not cheap piety, at the flesh-made world and its wonders of love.  The precision and observation in the final lines of “Two Trees” is worth the whole book, but there are many other marvels here, along with a ghost narrative of a lost boy learning to love the imperfectly formed natural world and his own flaws.  Along with a chorus of songbirds and birds of prey, it is especially the waterfowl, bittern, heron and kingfisher, which provide this poet his sacred icons, as they fly between elements of water and air.  This is a poet adept at singing in any form, who navigates with skill.

          – Cathryn Hankla, author of Texas School Book Depository

Consolation, longing, forgiveness, sacrifice, mercy, grace, and, above all, blessing—these are the terms that define Temple Cone’s moving and eloquent debut collection, No Loneliness.  With his effortless formal nimbleness and his richly textured language, recalling, perhaps, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Robinson Jeffers, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Rilke, but ultimately confirming his own unique voice, Cone moves seamlessly from elegy to celebration, from loss to love and recovery.  Whether evoking “romantic” fever, mill work, bread baking, or the birth of a daughter, or summoning owl, crow, meadowlark, heron, and hawk, Cone embraces the wounds and wonders of the natural world, retaining, with “words washed clean as pebbles,” an unshakable faith in the healing power of song.  This is truly a book of blessings, a blessing of a book.

          – Ronald Wallace, author of Long for This World

Odds & Ends

Rilke composed his Sonnets

to Orpheus in two months

after finishing the great Elegies,

ten years in the making.


So we labor at grief,

drawing constellations from chaos,

and when we pause, gracious

starlight comes unbidden.

From "A Father's Story"