Poetry News

Now in Color: UDP Puts Noel Black's Sold-Out Moby K. Dick Online

By Harriet Staff

Very cool: As part of the pre-sale for Noel Black's new book, Uselysses (you read that right), Ugly Duckling Presse also made a special edition of Black's chapbook, Moby K. Dick (sensing a pattern here); and now they've gone and made it digital. It's a beaut, with poems using lexicon from novels and full-color collages both—right off, you'll see a superhero fleeing the frame of Cy Twombly's "Fifty Days at Iliam: The Fire That Consumes All Before It," which accompanies Black's title poem. It's completely fitting—Twombly, recasting Alexander Pope's translation of The Iliad, also admitted that "Iliam" should have been spelled "Ilium" (he's rumored to have said, “My painting isn’t getting better, but my spelling is”); and Black's certainly got the text in conversation with itself and other material via these slippages too. View Moby K. Dick here. More from the author about the book's formation:

The poems in Moby K. Dick are based on a series of collages I did in the late-1990s/early-2000s when I lived in San Francisco. I would go to the SFMOMA and buy postcards of the art and then go back to my apartment on 26th Street where I’d rifle through the old comic books I’d find in the piles of crap that people would dump at the door of the Salvation Army across the street during the night. I looked for superheroes and creatures that could seamlessly inhabit the art in the postcards as though they had found their way into it through the secret corridors of the 2nd Dimension and cut them out fastidiously with the scissors on my pen knife. At some point, I fancied, I’d slyly affix the collages to the walls next the actual art. Banksy later did this in an amazing, far more political fashion than I’d intended. My aims were mostly aesthetic/escapist. I loved art; I wanted to talk to it.

I had also planned to write a chapbook of poems to go along with the images, but color photocopying was expensive then and I didn’t have a specific idea, so the collages sat in my desk drawer for 10 years. I took them out again after Julien Poirier asked me if I wanted to do a book for Ugly Duckling Presse. I’ve always loved the idea that books on bookshelves are neighbors and might talk to each other at night. Moby K. Dick suggested itself as a title in the corner of my eye (I don’t really care for the term “mash-up,” and cut-up is at least as old as Appolinaire, but there it was—a hoof). The idea was to use the texture of language of two books in conversation the same way I’d made the collages to suggest the way we are subsumed in, and consumed by, what we read and the many ways in which books actively take over our identities while we read them, which is also to say that they’re autobiographical.

Originally Published: February 20th, 2012