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"The Arts at Black Mountain College"
Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art. Edited by Vincent Katz. MIT, 2002, reprinted 2013.
Reviewed in July 2013 issue of Cassone online art magazine

Reviewed by Peter Jones, Southampton Solent University

The Black Mountain College was a utopian project played out under the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. Founded in 1933 by a maverick American academic, it offered an interdisciplinary education with the arts at the heart of the curriculum. The staff were a heady mix of idealistic young Americans and seasoned émigrés from Europe such as the artists Josef and Anni Albers, who brought with them the progressive ideas of the Bauhaus, the renowned German design school.

The Black Mountain story is recounted in Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art. It is a splendid survey of the institution and its legacy. It features artworks by staff and students such as the painter Robert Rauschenberg and composer John Cage. Other significant figures, although less well-known, include the artist Robert de Niro (father of the famous film actor), Charles Olson, writer and the last rector of Black Mountain, and potter Peter Voulkos, who turned a craft into an art form.

The college left its mark on American culture and still resonates today. Indeed, the staff, visiting tutors and alumni read like a who’s who of the avant-garde; the painters Willem de Kooning and Helen Frankenthaler, Japanese potter Shoji Hamada, the writers Anais Nin and Aldous Huxley, choreographer Merce Cunningham, photographers Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, poet and novelist Robert Creeley and the inventor Buckminister Fuller, and one could go on.



New book – Swimming Home


Swimming Home review in Jack Kimball's Pantaloons blog

Swimming Home review by Grace Cavalieri in the Washington Independent Review of Books

New book now available at Amazon.com


Swimming Home
by Vincent Katz


Swimming Home is a group of poems written over the past fifteen years, in places as varied as São Paulo, Berlin, New York, the coast of Maine, Calabria, and Stockton NJ.  One feels that Katz is indeed swimming home, that is, he perceives objects and people from the vivid, but often unreliable, motivated perspective of a swimmer, with sudden bursts of crystalline accuracy, as in the masterful “Sidewalk Poem” that closes the sequence.  Here a whirlpool of visual particulars, ending with: “light is guide, beyond brick, granite, if you can follow, / in sky, on building, drifting off banner, on person walking,” is cut short by a moment of shocking certainty: “They may not think poetry’s important / but I know it is important.”  After taking in Katz’s huge, teeming opus, few would disagree.

—John Ashbery


In Vincent Katz’s new book Swimming Home, the poet pulls out all the stops like a curator might at a posthumous retrospective, had they access to the breadth of gems that punctuated every skill of a single artist over a lifetime. The good news is that this book is not looking to explore the greatest hits of a departed Old Master, but rather the startling onward movement demonstrating the full range of humanity stretched before us, as broadly-gathered and carefully-constructed of both a poet of the here-and-now and a poet whose language and experience represents the future. To be able to write this voluptuously but also this responsibly is certain to place Katz in a very exclusive canon of poets one can get lushly lost in & yet always trust.

— Angelo Micah Olin


In staccato rhythms and with crystalline matter-of-factness, Vincent Katz surrenders once again to “the tug of street.” A 21st-century flâneur whose wanderings range from the sidewalks and subways of New York City to the crowded beaches of Rio de Janeiro, the poet brilliantly taps the “energies of long-buried poetries,” whether to summon distant childhood memories or to nail fleeting details of the lives flowing around him. Never forgetting the threats hemming the edges of everyday beauty and good fortune, the poems in Swimming Home evidence Katz’s growing concern with geopolitics and mortality.  Writing explicitly in “the middle of my life,” he never lets the reader forget that “the constant losing of things is part of the dive.”  These poems remind us that the perceptual world is, indeed, wondrous, if we would only lift our eyes, for a moment, from the hypnotizing screens of our smartphones.

—Raphael Rubinstein


Beautiful rhythms, surprises, driving pulse and panoramic view entwine with the inimitable thrust of walking, and looking, and noticing and thinking. There is deep pleasure in reading Vincent Katz’s Swimming Home. He’s got a fabulous eye out in the particulate roaring peopled world. I love these poems for their metabolism, immediacy, their dharmic politics and muscle.  I want to swim home too and land where

Poetry can’t mean that much, everyone asleep
Another year, another weight of looking and thinking
About everyone, and then there is just music
And people walking by the shore, their humble
Bodies, their self-desires, their anguish, I see
I am a poet, I step on the same sand as Homer

Katz — an impressive Latin and Greek classics translator as well — is an inheritor of Frank O’Hara’s and Edwin Denby’s gait and startled amusement but takes us into a new zone with different urgency and perspective. I feel sane, awake and optimistic inside these meditatively alert poems. Just the right balance for the 21st century.

— Anne Waldman



New book now available at Cuneiformpress.com

Poems to Work On review in Jack Kimball's Pantaloons blog


Poems to Work On: The Collected Poems of Jim Dine
Edited, with a foreword, by Vincent Katz
Hardcover, 290 pages


I swore I would never write another blurb, but Jim Dine’s Collected Poems has pulled me temporarily out of blurb retirement. The same verve that drives his paintings drives these poems, and added to it are a wonderfully goofy playfulness and a no-holds-barred, slightly scary exhilaration. Arp, Schwitters, and Picabia, move over.

—Ron Padgett


In the flutter of blue alcohol flame a figure enters its shadow asking where do you keep all the things / that don’t fit in your mind? Characters appear, vanish, reappear in the darkness but there is no space behind language. A mountain opens and red is registered. I’ve carried Jim Dine’s first book Welcome Home, Lovebirds through many moves since 1969. Now almost half a century later I have the delight of being again in that mind. The poems are as direct as brush-strokes, as casual as conversation, as passionate as loss. The background shifts. “The Short History of New York” beautifully nails that. London in the 1960s is palpable; Paris, Rome, flicker. Friends share the space. “Portrait” is a concisely brilliant one of Robert Creeley. Kenneth Koch, a hometown boy, makes occasional appearances. But all these are tones, not the foreground that is the restlessness, the questioning, the observation inhabited by the reader. For me a particular pleasure of these poems has been the privilege of at times perceiving the world as a painter — Jim Dine made my eyes feel. Poems To Work On is not only “NIGHT’S / FRIABLE / RAGE, but making life / without reason /is the reason/ for a /common dream.” Writing well worth reading.

—Tom Raworth


Jim Dine emerged onto the New York art scene via The Happenings in the early 1960s, when he was in his mid 20s. Some of the pieces he performed then used language, others struggled in muteness at the impossibility of words, and they were provoked by personal experiences. At Cornell in the mid-1960s, Dine met Robert Creeley, which galvanized his interest in poetry.

Entering a vibrant scene of poets, painters, and musi- cians in London in the late 1960s, Dine embarked on his first prolific period of poetry writing, which culminated in the publication of Welcome Home Lovebirds by Trigram Press in 1969. The book’s subtitle is “poems and draw- ings,” and this combination makes explicit the crossover quality that defines Dine’s outlook towards the arts and life. Dine has explored an expansive approach, working in painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, photogra- phy, and performance, in addition to writing.

Yet, this period was followed by an abrupt change. Though he wrote and published poems in his early 30s, he stopped writing poetry in the 1970s, after moving back to the States, where he holed up in Putney, Vermont, to refine his drawing technique. It wasn’t until two decades later that he returned to the writing of poetry, this time coupled with a new involvement with various photographic techniques. Since the mid-1990s, Dine has enjoyed a resurgence of poetry writing, which continues apace and shows no sign of abatement.

Dine was a poet, though, even in those times when he was not writing or publishing things that look like what we ordinarily call poems. Much of his oeuvre as a visual artist can justifiably be described as poetry, if we use as a definition of poetry: taking one thing and making it into something else. When he hung a screwdriver on a canvas, or when he made a detailed drawing of a pair of pliers, when he collaborated on an artist’s book with an- other poet, the activity could easily be called poetic. Dine thinks in poetry, a useful definition of a poet...

—From the Foreword by Vincent Katz