Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jess Mynes' book, "Sky Brightly Picked" from Nottingham's Skysill Press, is a series of short poems, each one related to a specific painting by Mark Rothko, and sharing the painting's title. Mynes doesn't attempt to write about the paintings, but rather to emulate their effect in language; so, we have abstraction combined with an attention to the materials from which the work was made, in short, crafted poems:

Untitled, 1960

caked in interstices

blush cukes
plump rasp bevel

wizen spleen distance

Words are given a materiality by being isolated as units of sound, giving the reader a sense of them as the bricks from which the poems are built. The whole project is very American, driven by, as Clark Coolidge says on the cover, "the urge to form the irreducible poem"; something that has driven poets from Carlos Williams to George Oppen to Robert Creeley. Mynes' work in this book also reminded me of John Taggart in a book like Pastorelles; though Mynes' work is more abstract. Maybe 'abstract' is the wrong word; they dispense with comment, and concentrate on the response to the artwork. They are precise meditations, echoing the spiritual aspect of Rothko's art:

No. 10, 1952

fresco light anapest

antiseptic green quotation

equations think much
to music

a vein
a shovel
a mare foaled

I was bowled over by this book. It's a real achievement to have produced 94 poems in this style without any seeming lapse in quality; you can open the book at random and always find something fresh and engaging. I might also mention the superb photgraph and cover design by Sam Ward.


Jess Mynes said...

Thanks for the attention to this Alan, very appreciated. Sam did a beautiful job with the design, particularly the cover.

Alan Baker said...

You're welcome Jess. Yes, it looks as good as it reads. Great stuff.