Thursday, September 22, 2022

Mary Ellen Solt | Flowers in Concrete

Mary Ellen Solt
Flowers in Concrete
Bloomington, USA: Indiana University, 1966
[29], 19.5 x 19 cm.
Edition of 135 numbered copies

Mary Ellen Solt was an early practitioner of concrete poetry, and one of the highest profile women in the genre. In addition to her own books and pamphlets (A Trilogy of Rain, The Peoplemover, A Demonstration Poem, and Marriage: A Code Poem), she was the editor of the canonical 1968 volume Concrete Poetry: A World View. Her lengthy introduction, "A World Look at Concrete Poetry," is a critical history of the movement. 

Her visual poems have been published in anthologies and magazines including Der Speigel, Newsweek, McCalls, and Harper’s Bazaar. She is one of very few women to appear in Emmett Williams' Anthology of Concrete Poetry and is featured heavily in Primary Information's more recent Women in Concrete Poetry: 1959-1979 (and is cited as "a big inspiration" for the publication). 

Her works have been exhibited in museums and art galleries such as La biennale de Venezia (1969); the Stedlijk Museum, Amsterdam (1971) The Jewish Museum, New York, (1970); and the current Venice Biennale. 

Solt corresponded with a number of poets including Ian Hamilton Finlay, Augusto and Haroldo de Campos, Louis Zukofsky, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, and William Carlos Williams, whose work she would write extensively about. In a letter from April 1960 , Carlos Williams wrote her: 

“Flossie read me your poems this morning. They are excellent, they are so excellently conceived that I do not trust myself to praise them… You have a conception of the poetic line which is revolutionary and may lead you anywhere, with its implications…” 

Flowers in Concrete was published by the Fine Arts Department of the University of Indiana in December of 1966. It includes an introduction by George Sadek and one of Solt's best known works, 

Mary Ellen Solt died of a stroke on June 21, 2007 in Santa Clarita, California.

 "As a poet, Mary Ellen Solt is a pioneer theorist, anthologist, and poet of the international concrete movement—no one has contributed more to the diffusion of concrete poetry in the United States and abroad… CONCRETE POETRY: A WORLD VIEW (1968) is the most comprehensive anthology of concrete poetry and theory. Her poems reveal far-reaching interests, from moon rocketry to semiotics. As a sensitive observer of nature and people, her impeccably crafted poems unite verbal and visual arts in unique creations."
- Aliki Barnstone & Willis Barnstone, Anthology of Women Poets From Antiquity to Now

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