Poetry and the Visual Arts

Last night I went to a wonderful poetry reading at the Elliston Poetry Room at the University of Cincinnati. David St. John, a Pulitzer-prize winning poet and this year’s Elliston Poet in Residence, read to a packed house. David’s poems are lyrical but cerebral with elegant and devious shifts in tone. Next week he’ll give a lecture on Larry Levis, a poet of great gifts who died of a heart attack when he was forty-nine. One of David’s books, Prism: White Light (Sausalito, CA: Arctos Press), was a collaboration with photographer Lance Patigian. Responding to Lance’s photos, David wrote poems about individual colors; the poem he read last night was an intricate meditation on saffron.

I love going to the Elliston Room, not only because of its fabulous collection of modern and contemporary poetry, but also because of its gorgeous collection of paintings by Cincinnati artists. Too few institutions support regional artists! James Cummins, curator of the Elliston Collection, is to be commended for filling the room’s walls with the best works of some of the best artists living in Cincinnati. (It’s just a shame that there are more deserving artists than space.) The Artist’s Magazine featured one of those artists, Cole Carothers, in the November 2007 issue. Cole is having an opening this Friday that I can’t wait to go to. Cole and David Miretsky, equally interesting as an artist, are showing new work at the Phyllis Weston-Annie Bolling Gallery. (Above left is Cole’s Cat’s Away (pencil, acrylic, wax, and oil, 67×84) that’s part of the Elliston Collection.)

George Elliston
was a Cincinnati journalist at a time when few women braved the misogyny of the newsroom. She lived like a miser and wrote poems by candelight. By the time of her death, she had amassed quite a lot of money; she gave it all to the university specifically for the advancement and study of poetry.

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