This is the sixth volume in Saturnalia’s Artist/Collaboration Series. I am impressed by and grateful for publisher Henry Israeli’s commitment to making available the collaborative efforts of visual and literary artists. The books are beautifully conceived, designed, and composed, and they occupy a uniquely wonderful place in the world of small press poetry publications.
Star Black, author of five previous volumes of poetry, founder of New York City’s amazing and popular KGB Bar Poetry Series, and a visual artist herself, and poet and painter Bill Knott, author of 12 books of poetry, have created an original and appealing book. Poems and paintings are titled separately, but form a meaningful whole. All of these works are comprised of the familiar and unfamiliar, images both round and sharp, impressions that can bear close scrutiny and a long-distance view. They are concretely abstract and abstractly concrete.
Here, for example, is an excerpt from “Inscape Complaint”:
The bouquets went away, miffed
at shoelaces that wrote their initials
in the dust en route to the humor train
that loved children so much it kidnapped
half of them and dropped them off at
zip codes, leaving the playground
ashen, with beagles and chows
replacements for friendship that last
a New York minute.
And here is another from “Subversion”:
Under the rain, its kaftans of faces,
above the butterweed of similar places,
between the cabin and the cantata,
are thin aerial arrays.
Many of Black’s poems are less abstract, small narratives with a more familiar dramatic arc. Some are philosophical musings (“Meanwhile, we edge toward demise, / dust-mop-like, courteous, respectful, // hoping to avoid a new life, its droll shock”). Others are autobiographical or confessional (“I hate irony. / I like the selfless quiet that surrounds me”). And others are themselves like paintings (“Lately it’s been late in the day, / the lavish firmament grey as a whisper / in a living room bathed in blood. Winters / have unspooled from a missing sun”). I appreciate the variety and admire the poet’s versatility and nimble manipulation of imagery.
I am especially moved by the book’s final poem, “Bridged by Eaves,” which brings together Black’s finest strengths: an eye for detail; an adept economy of expression; a surprising, yet utterly precise revelation (that bath!):
Ceravalo, it snows. The sky
is cotton-cold and unseeming.
I bathe to wash away non-feeling.
the rice of daylight
Whitens the roofs until
civilized streets are brambles
on Wang Wei screens—
mists adrift above rose-pink mountains.
Ceravolo, fresh snow on wet slate,
long ago is just a sec; no gift is late.
This book was published just a sec ago in 2010 and whenever readers encounter it will the right time.