Poet, art critic, and curator John Yau was born in Lynn, Massachusetts to Chinese emigrants. Like a painter obsessed with the physicality of paint, Yau takes pleasure in words as words. His poetry is playful, surprising, and pushes the limits of language. “I do not speculate about ceaseless wonders,” Yau writes. “I go out and see if I might/ Find another remote and insubstantial form.”

Yau is also a noted art critic and curator, who has published many works of art criticism. His passion for visual art permeates his latest poetry collection Further Adventures in Monochrome. Yau not only creates a poetic dialogue with artists like John Cage, Yves Klein, and Andy Warhol, but he also employs a collage technique in his poetry, much like the Surrealists and Pop Artists.

Though Yau is using words to convey his vision, his poetry is both visual and aural. It’s this interplay between language, sound, and image that allows Yau’s poetry to be both deep and mischievous. Further Adventures in Monochrome is multidimensional in every sense of the term. Reading a poem by John Yau is not unlike the process of looking at a sculpture in a gallery—the work is best appreciated when approached from different directions: above, below, in the round.

The Poetry Foundation writes, Yau “has won acclaim for his poetry’s attentiveness to visual culture and linguistic surface. In poems that frequently pun, trope, and play with the English language, Yau offers complicated, sometimes competing versions of the legacy of his dual heritages—as Chinese, American, poet, and artist.”

One of my favorite poems in Yau’s new collection is the title poem, “Further Adventures in Monochrome.” The fifteen-part poem investigates the life, art, and ideas of French artist Yves Klein, sometimes in the voice of the artist himself. What follows is an excerpt from “Further Adventures in Monochrome”—three sections of the poem that beautifully capture John Yau’s startling imagination.


Yves Klein, Monochrome blue sans titre (IKB 67), 1959, 92 x 73 cm. (Photo courtesy yveskleinarchives.org)



The pages of Yves Klein’s 1954 book Yves Peintures (Photo courtesy www.cuba.nl)





from Further Adventures in Monochrome



Everything exists to end up in a book, Stephane Mallarme

Nothing exists except in a book, which is the imagination, Yves Klein


In 1954, with the help of my aunt, I published two books, Yves
and Haguenault Peintures. They documented the paintings
I wanted to preserve in the impossible, the only domain we should
long for. The preface for each book was made of thick black lines,
rather than wo