From dusk till dawn with poet and Columbus expat Nathan Cole

Andy Downing
Nathan Cole

Nathan Cole started writing the poems that make up his debut, Run From Heaven, during his senior year of college at Baldwin Wallace University in Cleveland in 2017, but the collection is anchored by the poems and experiences gathered in the nearly two years Cole lived in Columbus before moving to Brooklyn, New York.

“At the end of the book I say thank you to Columbus, and I’ll always feel most alive running down the street with my friends in the Short North,” Cole said by phone from Brooklyn recently. “And, at the same time, I was writing poems inspired by the city. I would say a good 70 percent of the poems are written about Columbus and the experiences I had there.”

Many of the poems were written on the notes app on Cole’s cellphone and on bar napkins, often sketched in the backseat of ride-share cars or in bars such as Local Bar and Axis, as well as in spots where Cole could bask in the sun, such as Goodale Park. (The collection is structured as a dusk-to-dawn affair, taking the reader through a single night from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., and Cole often wrote poems in locations that reflected the intended time of day.)

“I wanted the readers to follow me through the night, figuratively, so the poems start out quite dark with reflections on myself, reflections on love, relationships, friendships — things that don’t always go as planned,” Cole said. “But as the night continues and morning comes, there are breakthroughs that come with the light. I’m opening the curtains, so to speak.”

Though structured as a single night, Run From Heaven, which debuted atop Amazon’s Gay and Lesbian New Releases chart earlier this year, captures a period of Cole’s early 20s defined by personal growth.

“For me, the biggest thing that surprised me [stepping back and looking at the collection] was how much growth I underwent in two years alone. … I began in a place where I wasn’t very happy. I hadn’t accomplished what I wanted. I wasn’t in the job I wanted. My relationships weren’t working out the way I wanted. But, over time, slowly but surely, I found parts of myself I could honor and celebrate and write about,” Cole said. “I had a friend read the collection … and she said she thought it was a clear story of how you can begin to love yourself.”

Even the title of the work reflects a previous urge Cole said he had, which was to distance himself from things he knows are good for him, hungry for that next thrill or rush. It’s an urge that begins to dissipate as the writer reaches the book’s final poem, “Finally It’s Summer,” which closes with the line, “I smile at how cold I used to be.”

“I realized I didn’t have to keep running,” Cole said. “I’m in a much warmer spot now. I’m in the light. … Things are really on the come-up. And that’s what I really wanted to convey to the reader: You can be at a dark spot at any point in your life, whether you’re 22 or 15 or 60, but the seasons change, and the night doesn’t last forever.”