Poetry: Olivia Cole | clivejames.com
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Olivia Cole

Olivia ColeStill in her early twenties at the time of writing, Olivia Cole was born and raised in Kent, educated at Oxford, and now works as a journalist in London. A winner of the Eric Gregory Award, she quickly made her mark as a poet through the unforced romanticism of her conversational rhythms, as if she had found the most disarming possible way of going public with her diary. But there was an additional element that promised something else: an engagement with a history beyond her own. Figures from politics and the arts get into her poetry as characters, populating it with unexpected drama. This combination of a buttonholing personal voice and a curious engagement with a wider world gives her more recent poetry an unusually rich play of tone, a reportorial lyricism that many older poets would find it hard to match. Although the subtle shifts of register are all hers, however, her strategic approach to poetic narrative almost certainly owed something to the late Michael Donaghy, the American grey eminence behind so many of the more startling young poets in London now. His is the instructor’s voice to be heard echoing at the parade of talents in the little anthology Ask For It By Name, featuring, among other products of his boot-camp, Olivia Cole as the youngest in the squad.