Guest Post: Molly Arden

Guest Post: Molly Arden

Maxwell Ryan
Apr 2, 2005

So there I was, happily perambulating SoHo, enjoying the beautiful weather while finishing up the last few crumbs of my pizza con funghi from Sullivan Street Bakery. I was still thinking about the cento and what a capacious form it is and how good it has been to me when I decided to forego the brownie from Once Upon a Tart in favor of Star Black's collages currently on view at Poets House (72 Spring Street).

(Seems to me that the collage is the visual equivalent of the cento; you take what is given, as AT's resident Poet Laureate explains, and create something new. The new gives you the opportunity to appreciate the old while getting a feel for the possibility in th e quotidian.)

Back to Black (upon hearing her name, my mind instantly goes into translation mode: Etoile Noir). Star Black takes her place among the gifted poets who also practice some form of visual art. Think Elizabeth Bishop and her watercolors, Mark Strand and his etchings, e.e. cummings and his paintings. Star Black has published several volumes of poetry, including one comprising double sestinas.

A discussion of the sestina form is for another post.

Let's just agree right now that the single sestina is a mind-blowing enough feat; if you can write a double, you're in the realm of the fantastic. Impressive as they are, Star Black's sestinas are surpassed in my view by her sonnets, which show how much life (and strangeness) there is in the old form.

Black's collages are “literary” inasmuch as they juxtapose images with text and invite the viewer to interpret the result. She also seems to be reviving the idea of the medieval manuscript book as a kind of form mingling the visual and the verbal.

Poets House is worth a visit any time. It is a clean well-lighted place and the library of floor-to-ceiling poetry books and magazines invites browsing. In one room a quotation on the wall from Emily Dickinson commences but you have to turn the corner to see how it ends. And so you turn the corner and what you see is this:


Which seems like the all-time greatest blurb you can get.

With the addition of Star Black's artwork, Poets House belongs on everyone's must-visit list this spring. The show comes down on April 29th.

(Molly Arden)

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