Sophie Cabot Black is an unabashedly passionate poet. Her language is exquisite, each word falling perfectly into precise structures of vision. Whether in a loose sonnet form or in a taut longer line, these poems are exercises in the extension of the soul.
Devotional and pure, Sophie Cabot Black's voice is one of inconstant waiting, of meditation on edge.
The Misunderstanding of Nature encompasses two New Worlds: the contemporary one and the one of seventeenth-century New England. At its epiphany, this collection presents a long poem called "The Arguments," a monologue in the voice of Dorothy Bradford, one of the first Englishwomen to have set foot in America. Through her complicated search for transcendence, we overhear the movements of learning to belong, caught at the rim of the wilderness.
Sophie Cabot Black was raised on a small farm in New England and was educated at Marlboro College and Columbia University. Among her awards and honors are the Grolier Poetry Prize, the John Masefield Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and the MacDowell Colony. She lives in New York City.
In Sophie Cabot Black's first collection, we find ourselves among the 10,000 details that accompany each of us on our individual journeys toward oblivion-- the details of physical objects, the details manifested in ideas and in memory-- those present and those left behind. The poems Ms. Black has fashioned here are elegies for what lies ahead as she guides us with her 'art of speed and direction.' These poems are about direction-- moving forward, looking back, reiterating the experience of being here, of passing through.
The measure of Sophie Cabot Black's The Misunderstanding of Nature is the ambition and distinction of its long final poem, 'The Arguments.' Altogether this is a beautiful book: in poem after poem, the topography of a late twentieth century landscape of impasse: 'There is only what you might do / And what you damage.' 'The Arguments' finds all this present but suppressed within the very origins of America-- and in the process a wild, leaping, beautiful music. Berryman's 'Homage to Mistress Bradstreet' has found an eloquent, authentic sister.