"It seems very pretty," she said when she finished it, "but it's rather hard to understand."


black black black black black black
in tones of black and black on black
the canvases are tagged abstract 
 on every plaque
although the artist will attack
abstract and shun the word the lack
of it will not distract the claque
in black black black black black

brown brown brown brown brown 
a message floats above the ground 
serene reflective, and profound 
a man who wound his own life down
red red red red red red red red
dead dead dead dead dead dead

— Michael Cantor
(via KIN)

Form meets content in this sonnet that looks (octet over sestet) like a painting by Rothko. The lowercase letters and lack of punctuation keep the poem looking abstract and painterly. Rothko’s paintings, often on large canvases, were meant to swallow the viewer in fields of pure color. In the poem, repetition emphasizes the color words and envelops the reader. Black becomes the central shade; its “tones” are the black of the painting, the black of the critics’ clothes, and the blackness of death.

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