This Friday, Sophie Cabot Black will be joining us for a reading of her poetry. The Exchange (Graywolf Press) is her latest book and finest achievement to date. Readers familiar with her will find it no surprise that these poems are tightly controlled and contain an almost formalist appeal.
The Exchange ranges in subject matter from the visceral to the metaphysical (and here we will understand metaphysical to mean subject matter that enacts itself entirely in the mind) on a wide range of subjects from home renovation and ownership to pornography, the Internet, and the nuances of female and male relationships.
On the page, her poems may remind one of H.D., but these are far from simplistic imitative lyrics. Her work has more in common with the difficult metaphysical poets of the 17th century like Henry Vaughan and John Donne; love, life, and death inhabit her thoughts (compare this poem by Henry Vaughan http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/vaughan/anddothey.htm with this one by Black http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/181626).
In an age of vers libre (or free verse) Black’s sense of control and her refined line are refreshing aspects of her work. The reader is left feeling that the poet has poured a great deal of thought into every page. That being said, these poems are more for the initiated than the layman, and will benefit from rereading.
Those who have not heard Black read her poems aloud will be in for a treat. She has a level cadence that is musical and attractive to the auditory senses. She is not, as so many poets are these days, monotone.
Sophie Cabot Black will be reading for us at Collected Works on Friday the 21st at 6 PM alongside local poetess Michelle LaFlamme-Childs formaly of the Santa Fe Art Institute. After the reading pick up The Exchange and get it signed by Black herself.
Christopher J. Johnson