Celebrate with Them: Two Poets House Exhibitions
We’re always on about our gallery space here at the Poetry Foundation, where we’ve just featured an exhibition of artwork inspired by Emily Dickinson and a copy of Emily Dickinson’s only surviving dress. But the highlight of our week was a visit to Poets House in New York, where two excellent exhibitions are up until March 14th, 2014.
“come celebrate with me: The Work of Lucille Clifton” features a special archival collection of early poetry, photographs, letters, and ephemera, curated by Kevin Young with Amy Hildreth Chen and Lisa Chinn. The nearly seventy years worth of material on display offers a tantalizing glimpse into the breadth of Clifton’s work. Highlights include Clifton’s first poem from 1955 (image featured above), which is dedicated to Emily Dickinson; manuscript pages of Clifton’s 1976 memoir Generations, with edit marks by former Howard University classmate and Random House editor Toni Morrison; rare children’s books; a folder in which Clifton collected her “Bad Poems”; as well as the last poem Clifton ever wrote in 2010. Materials are on loan from the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University.
A second exhibition, “Mark Doty & Darren Waterston: A Compendium of Creatures” features a contemporary bestiary by poet Mark Doty and painter Darren Waterston. A Swarm, A Flock, A Host, is now available as a trade book from Prestel, but the original paintings and broadsides on view at Poets House are worth a special visit. As Doty put it in a talk about the book at the Poets House, “animals present possibilities to us.” This “epic poem about the poet’s back yard” explores the cycle of life—one of the most striking images of a deer in silhouette with a tree growing out of it, was inspired by a decaying deer Doty discovered on a walk in his back yard. The book is implicitly conservationist. According to Mark Doty, “We are no loner just witnesses to the natural world. We are its destroyers or its stewards.”
If you haven’t been to see Poets House gorgeous building in lower Manhattan, now you have two more reasons to go.
Catherine Halley is the editor of JSTOR Daily, an online magazine that draws connections between current affairs, historical scholarship, and other content available on JSTOR, a digital library of scholarly journals, books, and primary sources. She is the former digital director of the Poetry Foundation, where she served as editor...