Brief Accident of Light is a collection of twenty poems, ten by Rhina P. Espaillat and ten by Alfred Nicol. The poems were written for an arts collaboration initiated by Newburyport Chamber Music Festival Director David Yang. Mr. Yang, a distinguished violist and composer, made a list of emblematic locations in and around the city of Newburyport, and assigned to each location a specific time of day or night. He first commissioned composer Robert Bradshaw to write a new piece for string quartet drawing its inpiration from those locations. Mr. Yang then invited Espaillat and Nicol to visit each spot at the specified time and to give voice to their experiences in a series of poems. Because the poets chose to make their visits together, most of the poems gathered here are paired —a reader will hear two voices emanating from each place, as when two birds perch in the same tree.
The two poets found themselves a little taken aback by the way these poems seemed to write themselves. One can only surmise that the spirits of City Hall and Oak Hill Cemetery really had something they needed to express, and were only waiting for an opportunity! A poet can get carried away when that kind of thing happens. You’ll see that there are four unpaired poems in this collection—“Waking Up,” “Fly-By: The Newburyport Art Association,” “The Closing Year,” and “Fog at Night”—each resulting from one or the other poet writing from a place not mentioned on the original list.
In keeping with the collaborative nature of this project, Kate Sullivan was invited to illustrate the collection with images of the sites mentioned in the poems. She too got caught up in the spirit of Mr. Yang’s vision, and contributed the celebratory ink-wash sketches the reader will happen upon, turning these pages.
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