Katharine Coles

Katharine Coles’ seventh collection of poems, Wayward, is due from Red Hen Press in 2019; her memoir, Look Both Ways, will be out in 2018. She is a Poet in Residence at the Natural History Museum of Utah and at the SLC Public Library for the Poets House program FIELD WORK, and was sent to Antarctica in 2010 to write poems under the auspices of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program (The Earth Is Not Flat, Red Hen 2012). She has received grants from the NEA and NEH and a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship.

All Books


Katharine Coles

Publication Date: June 25, 2019

$17.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-159709-895-3


In her seventh collection, Wayward, Katharine Coles uses small poems to take on big questions, including love, aging, death, the permeable boundaries of self, and how we know what we know.

Wayward begins with a poem, “How We Sing,” that makes explicit reference to poetic making and also to time and temporality. These concerns thread through the book’s three sections, unfolding for the most part seasonally, from summer to summer, though also backing up and considering time’s passage more holistically and from a distance, as in the elegies, the poems about aging and mortality, and the infinity erasures that both mark and bridge the section breaks. The poems as a whole, and especially the erasures, acknowledge how our experience of time is flexible, as is time itself (there can be different sizes of infinity, for example, as explored in “New Year Cento on Infinity and Mortality”).  Within the large, abstract questions the poems address play out the intimate details of everyday life and love—that of spouses, parents and children, friends, and animal companions both wild and domestic.  As Wayward begins located in time, it ends with a gesture “away,” outside time, in a poem of that title and a final infinity erasure that brings the collection full circle by joining that last poem with the first.


Pleasure in the mouth, pleasure in the swiftness and accuracy of perception, pleasure in observing a mind divided against itself interrogate its every assumption, pleasure in following the tough-minded investigations of self and the world through the lenses of physics, neurobiology, natural and human history—all these singular pleasures coalesce into poems rich with lyric feeling and a passionately precise syntax. Her use of rhyme shows why virtuosity coupled with psychological insight can get you closer to the heart of things in ten lines than in a pages-long narrative full of intimate details. Coles is a rarity in her generation or any generation: her understanding that poetry is a quintessentially formal art has allowed her to create her own conventions and explode the usual dichotomies between politics and private life, between tradition and the programmatically avant-garde. She is a true original.—Tom Sleigh, author of House of Fact, House of Ruin and The Land Between Two Rivers: Writing in an Age of Refugees


Katharine Coles

Publication Date: April 4, 2016

$17.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-992-9


The poems in Katharine Coles’s Flight playfully engage the spiritual and natural worlds through the human constructs of science, art, philosophy, and history.

Thoughtful and intelligent, the poems in Flight are still fully embodied, rooted entirely in the senses, and extending Coles?s ongoing examination of the big questions: What is the relation of art and science? What are the potentials and limitations of perception and intuition? And never least, What does all this tell us about our capacity for love and pleasure? These poems are deeply engaged with the pleasures of the sensuous, treating thought itself as a sensual activity, as a kind of passion in its own right. William Carlos Williams said, “No ideas but in things”; Coles seems to want to assert that there is no thing: moon, bat, moth, dog, beloved husband, that will not give rise to ideas, and, very often, to pleasure at the same time. More than anything, pleasures are what the poems seek to create and enact; the pleasures of the flesh, yes; and of the mind that is also of the flesh, and that is so present in the poems.


“There is a remarkable worldly ease to the poems of Katharine Coles’s new collection, Flight. Travel always focuses one’s powers of observation, but Katharine Coles always bring to her work a naturalist’s powers of precise discrimination—her poems are both acute and visionary in their perceptions. Whether writing poems of love to her husband or to the beings around her, Katharine Coles finds a way to make our world new for us, again and again.”—David St. John

“‘Who says there is no magic in the world?’ writes Katharine Coles in Flight, her stunning new collection of poems. Within these pages you will find a cabinet of luminous wonders, gathered and deftly arranged by a master wordsmith and explorer of ancient worlds, hidden caves, and the intricacies of the human heart. This is an extraordinary book.”—Mira Bartok, author of The Memory Palace

“From the Pancake batfish to the pocket inside the pocket, Katharine Coles collects exotica and renders it part of the interior landscape. She’s after beauty and collects images, objects, forms, words that catch the mind and tongue. And to what end? Hers is not an art of mere accumulation but of creating spaces that accommodate complexity without sacrificing love for the world and for, well, the lover. . . . Poetry is a means to see what kinds of minds our time is creating. This one, suffused equally with song and science, clarity and multiplicity, shows just what kind of wonderful instrument poetry can be for fine-tuning consciousness, for being true to the tension between the limits and reach of knowledge.”—Alison Hawthorne Deming

The Earth Is Not Flat

Katharine Coles

Publication Date: March 1, 2013

$17.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-710-9


In 2010, poet Katharine Coles sailed across the Drake Passage to spend a month at a tiny Antarctic science station under the auspices of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. The Earth Is Not Flat, the collection of poems written out of her adventure, invokes the vast land- and seascapes as well as the fauna – penguins, seals, whales, and scientists -she encountered along the way. Addressing not only the present reality of human habitation in Antarctica but also a rich history peopled by figures like Shackleton, Scott, and Amundsen, the poems bring Coles’ much-praised intelligence, passion, and humor to bear on subjects ranging from writing a grant proposal for scientists to heavy seas to the addictive potential of joy. Along the way, she continues her passionate meditation on reality and our place in it, using as her vehicles both the natural world and the human-created worlds of art, history, and science.

Praise for The Earth Is Not Flat:

“Katharine Coles sails to Antarctica and takes a fresh and startled look at a world that seems first hand in these lucid, well-made, scientifically alert, precise, and bedazzled poems.”—Edward Hirsch

“Most of us will never see much less experience Antarctica. It doesn’t matter, Katharine Coles takes us there through these searing and seering poems. Ice becomes a mirror to our psyche as well as a phenomenon of change. Climate science becomes the physics of consciousness. This is a book of witness.”—Terry Tempest Williams, author of When Women Were Birds


Katharine Coles

Publication Date: June 1, 2008

$18.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-390-3


In Fault, Katharine Coles continues to explore her abiding interest in the intersections of science, culture, and history, but the book is perhaps best described as an extended meditation on love. Ranging across time and continents, Coles addresses such figures as Newton, Kepler, and Vesalius, not only with intellectual rigor but also with humor, intimacy, and buoyant optimism that render her subjects the figures and the science accessible within the capacious intellectual, emotional, and physical landscapes of the poems.


Congratulations to Katharine Coles, a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow!

Katharine Coles, the author Fault, as well as the forthcoming Flight and Reckless, has been named a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow! Congratulations, Kate! During her Guggenheim Fellowship period, she will be extending this work into a lyric […]

Katharine Coles featured in Oceanus Magazine

Alice Alpert, a graduate student in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program, discusses her Antartic experience with Red Hen poet, Katharine Coles. To read the article in Oceanus Magazine, click