Friday, October 26, 2018



Lost Sonnets by Catherine Vidler
(Timglaset, Malmo, 2018)

What can poetry do? Many things, and certainly among them is how poetry can make you think about matters that only a particular poem can surface for you. Poetry, in other words, can open you up to new modes of thinking/feeling/viewing/ … and hopefully then a newly-better way of living. That last element is perhaps the hardest in this engagement … perhaps. But that’s mostly up to the reader. In the beginning, the poetry first must do its job of effecting change. By this standard, such is accomplished well by Catherine Vidler’s Lost Sonnets--and they do so in a moving way with a long-finish resonance.

Lost Sonnets’ title is intriguing. Before one actually opens the book, one might imagine that these are sonnets that were created, lost, and later rediscovered to be featured in a publication. However, reading and viewing through the pages of 155 sonnets actually raises the idea that the sonnets are lost and in search of a destination, including themselves as destinations (for instance, that phrase “Know thyself!”).

(Thus,) appropriately, the beginning images are simpler than the later images. For examples, here are the second sonnet and a much later one. In both cases, one can discern the number 14, as befits the post-13th century sonnet that incorporates 14 text lines.

As shown by the later image, the process also comes to integrate color which would seem apt since self-discovery is complicated.

Between the above two images are a wealth of a variety of sonnets which help give the impression of searching. Here are two more examples:

It’s only upon ending the perusal of all 155 sonnets that one realizes there is not destination-as-goal for which the sonnets searched. To look at and, if so, successfully connect with a sonnet is to realize that the lost-ness, the search, and the attainment (of some conclusion or epiphany) are in each image. These lost sonnets are, in other words, both question(s)-and-answer(s) embedded within the same image. That conclusion, as I previously stated, is based on the reader making a successful connection—Vidler-as-author, however, does not define what that connection is supposed to be; the reader’s subjectivity is allowed to flourish (or not).

For example, for me, the third sample image gives an impression of stitching—let me replicate the image here to ensure no confusion:

I get the sense of stitching due to the marks that evoke needles with thread. So there is a stitching and what’s the result? Why, a strengthening as indicated by the overlapping curved lines in the middle of the image. Significantly, that band of curved lines is moving both upwards and to the right of the page—this depiction of an ascending flow (versus, say, an unraveling descent) would symbolize progress. Conclusion: if one (or more) works together well with others, progress unfolds for happy or desired results. My thought process along these lines (pun intended) is just an example of how one might engage with, learn from, and then have something from which to act on in the reader’s/viewer’s life (i.e. work with others).

Mine was a simple reading but I think is an example for how, by allowing for such a reading, Vidler’s images become/are effective poetry. In turn, Vidler’s sonnets show again (what I’ve long believed): Poetry is not words.


Vidler does provide a useful essay about her process of making the sonnets. It’s an illuminating addition and I imagine particularly of interest to the geek in us who might wonder how she technically created the images. Its placement after rather than before the sonnets themselves, though, is fitting as her explanation is not necessary for the viewer to enjoy these lost(-and-found) sonnets.

Because of the (abstract) nature of these sonnets, they also lend themselves to multiple viewings for different responses each time. In other words, Vidler has created a reason to keep returning to the sonnets—the pleasure of the search need not end! Brava and gratitude, then, to the poet!


Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea Resurrects (GR). She loves books and has released over 50 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. Her 2018 poetry collections include HIRAETH: Tercets From the Last Archipelago, MURDER DEATH RESURRECTION: A Poetry Generator, TANKA: Vol. 1and ONE TWO THREE: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems which is a bilingual English-Spanish edition with translator Rebeka Lembo. Forthcoming is WITNESS IN A CONVEX MIRROR which will inaugurate Tinfish Press' "Pacific response to John Ashbery." She also invented the poetry form “hay(na)ku” whose 15-year anniversary in 2018 is celebrated at the San Francisco and Saint Helena Public Libraries. More information about her works is available at