Mary Ellen Solt

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Mary Ellen Solt, c1980. Photo: Catherine Solt.
Born July 8, 1920(1920-07-08)
Gilmore City, Iowa, United States
Died June 21, 2007(2007-06-21) (aged 86)
Santa Clarita, California, United States
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Forsythia, 1965. From Solt, Flowers in Concrete, 1966.

Mary Ellen Solt, née Bottom (8 July 1920, Gilmore City, Iowa – 21 June 2007, Santa Clarita, California) was an American concrete poet, essayist, translator, editor, and professor.

Life and work[edit]

Born in Gilmore City, Iowa, Solt was the daughter of a Methodist minister from England. She was educated at Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa), where she first studied piano before earning a BA in literature, and at the University of Iowa, where she earned an MA.

Solt began writing concrete poetry in the 1960s and became a leader of the concrete poetry movement, editing the influential anthology Concrete Poetry: A World View (1968). She is the author of the poetry collections Flowers in Concrete (1966), Marriage: A Code Poem (1976), and The Peoplemover 1968: A Demonstration Poem (1978), as well as the poetry pamphlet A Trilogy of Rain (1970). Her concrete poetry has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale (1969), the Jewish Museum in New York City (1970), and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1971). An essay of hers is included in the 1990 exhibition catalogue Robert Lax and Concrete Poetry (1990).

Solt received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support her scholarship on poet William Carlos Williams. Mary Ellen Solt: Toward a Theory of Concrete Poetry (2010, edited by Antonio Sergio Bessa) presents her poetry and scholarly essays as well as critical essays on her work. She edited Dear Ez: Letters from William Carlos Williams to Ezra Pound (1985).

Professor emeritus at Indiana University in Bloomington at the time of her death (began teaching there in 1955 and joined the Institute for Comparative Literature, 1970-1991), Solt also taught at the University of Warsaw (1976/77) and directed the Polish Studies Center at Indiana University (1977-1984). In 1996, she moved to her daughter Susan in Santa Clarita, California. Her papers are archived at the Lilly Library at Indiana University Bloomington. (Source)

She was married to historian Leo Frank Solt (1921-1994).


Flowers in Concrete, 1966; 1969, PDF, PDFs.


  • "Flowers in Concrete", Poetry 107:6, Mar 1966, pp 380-385.
  • Flowers in Concrete, intro. George Sadek, Bloomington: University of Indiana Press (Fine Arts Department), Dec 1966, [29] pp, 19.5 x 19.5 cm, edition of 135. Designed and printed by John Dearstyne. Includes poems Forsythia, Lilac, and Geranium. New ed., 1969, portfolio, [1+11] plates, 92 x 61 cm, edition of 40, PDFs. Designed by Timothy Mayer. Review: Rosenthal (Poetry).
  • A Trilogy of Rain, Urbana, IL: Finial Press, 1970. Edition of 30.
  • Marriage: A Code Poem, Illinois, 1976, [10] leaves. Edition of 50. [1]
  • The Peoplemover 1968: A Demonstration Poem, Reno, NV: West Coast Poetry Review, 1978, 114 pp. A reproduction of the texts from Solt’s protest posters arranged in the form of concrete poems. The posters were first published in 1973 in Open Poetry, edited by Ronald Gross and George Quasha, with Emmett Williams, John Robert Colombo, and Walter Lowenfels. They were silk screened for an exhibition by the Finial Press, Urbana, IL, in 1970. [2]
  • Time, Pittsburgh: Poetry on the Buses/Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1978, [1] broadside, 28 × 71 cm. With artist Francis R. Esteban.
Concrete Poetry: A World View, 1968/1970, PDF, HTML.

Literary criticism[edit]

  • An Historical Study of Shakespeare's 3 Henry VI, Iowa, 1948. MA thesis.
  • William Carlos Williams: Poems in the American Idiom, Department of English, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 1960. First appeared in Folio 25:1, Winter 1960, pp 3-28.
  • "William Carlos Williams: Idiom and Structure", The Massachusetts Review 3:2, Winter 1962, pp 304-318. [3]
  • editor, Artes Hipánicas/Hispanic Arts: A Magazine of Literature, Music and Visual Arts / Revista de Literatura Musica y Artes Visuales, 1(3-4): "A World Look at Concrete Poetry", Spring 1968; new ed. as Concrete Poetry: A World View, Bloomington: Indian University Press, 1970, 311 pp, IA, HTML. Review: Coelho (LBR, PT). [4] [5]
  • "Concrete Poetry", Books Abroad 44:3, Summer 1970, pp 421-425.
  • "Charles Sanders Peirce and Eugen Gomringer: The Concrete Poem as a Sign", Poetics Today 3(3): "Poetics of the Avant-Garde", Summer 1982, pp 197-209. Paper prepared for the Congress of the International Comparative Literature Association in Budapest, Hungary, August 1976. A shorter version was read and was published in proceedings of the Congress.
  • "The American Idiom", William Carlos Williams Review 9(1/2): "Centennial Issue", Fall 1983, pp 91-124. [6]
  • "Notes on a Letter from William Carlos Williams", William Carlos Williams Review 11:2, Fall 1985, pp 2-3. [7]
  • editor, Dear Ez: Letters from William Carlos Williams to Ezra Pound, Bloomington, IN: Private Press of Fredric Brewer, 1985, 51 pp. Review: Moore (WCW Review).
  • "Something to Say: William Carlos Williams on Younger Poets by James E. B. Breslin", William Carlos Williams Review 13:2, Fall 1987, pp 38-56. Review. [8]
  • "Robert Lax and Concrete Poetry", in Robert Lax and Concrete Poetry, Buffalo, NY: Burchfield Art Center, 1990, pp 6-19; repr. in ABCs of Robert Lax, eds. David Miller and Nicholas Zurbrugg, Exeter, UK: Stride Publications, 1999, pp 132-157. Catalogue essay.
  • "Concrete Steps to an Anthology", in Experimental, Visual, Concrete: Avant-garde PoetrySince the 1960s, eds. K. David Jackson, Eric Vos, and Johanna Drucker, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1996, pp 347-352.
  • "Making a Love Poem' Concrete", Paideuma 31:1/3, Spring/Fall/Winter 2002, pp 91-92. [9]


  • William Carlos Williams Review 19(1/2): "Essays in Honor of Mary Ellen Solt and Hugh Kenner", Spring/Fall 1993. Essays by Theodora Rapp Graham, Terence Diggory, Barry Ahearn, and T. Hugh Crawford. [10]
  • OEI 51: "Mary Ellen Solt: Towards a theory of concrete poetry", ed. & forew. Antonio Sergio Bessa, Stockholm, 2010. [11] [12] [13]