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  • To Make Various Sorts of Black
  • Lorna Goodison (bio)

According to The Craftsman's Handbook, chapter XXXVII'Il Libro dell Arte' by Cennino D'Andrea Cennini

who tells us there are several kinds of black colours.First, there is a black derived from soft black stone.It is a fat colour; not hard at heart, a stone unctioned.

Then there is a black that is obtained from vine twigs.Twigs that choose to abide on the true vineoffering up their bodies at the last to be burned,

then quenched and worked up, they can live againas twig of the vine black; not a fat, more of a leancolour, favoured alike by vinedressers and artists.

There is also the black that is scraped from burnt shells.          Markers of Atlantic's graves.Black of scorched earth, of torched stones of peach;          Twisted trees that bore strange fruit.

And then there is the black that is the source of lightfrom a lamp full of oil such as any thoughtful guestwaiting for bride and groom who cometh will have.

A lamp you light and place underneath—not a bushel—but a good clean everyday dish that is fit for baking.Now bring the little flame of the lamp up to the under

surface of the earthenware dish (say a distance of twoor three fingers away) and the smoke that emitsfrom that small flame will struggle up to strike at clay.

Strike till it crowds and collects in a mess or a mass;now wait, wait a while please, before you sweep thiscolour—now sable velvet soot—off onto any old paper [End Page 697]

or consign it to shadows, outlines, and backgrounds.Observe: it does not need to be worked up nor ground;it is just perfect as it is. Refill the lamp, Cennini says.

As many times as the flame burns low, refill it. [End Page 698]

Lorna Goodison

Lorna Goodison is the Poet Laureate of Jamaica and a major figure in world literature. She has won many awards for her work, most recently the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize for Poetry from Yale University (2018). Her Collected Poems was published in 2017, followed by Redemption Ground: Essays and Adventures (2019). She has also written From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People (2007), three collections of short stories, and ten books of poetry. She is Professor Emerita at the University of Michigan.



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