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“I had a mother who read to me….” (Strickland Gillilan)
“Grin. Remember: tomorrow is prompt.” (Paul Janeczko)
“I pray thee Lord, my soul to keep…” (Traditional prayer)
Lines of poems bounce around inside my body. They are friends on cloudy soul-weather days, whispering wisdom and grace. Like Orion in the sky, they remind me that everything will find its way, even me.
One day last fall, in the middle of busy work project, I distracted myself by searching for a poetry craft, a cozy way to reward the completion of my work. I found this lovely thread spool poetry post by Kelli Nina Perkins and then found this follow-up and tutorial. Soon I was off to e-bay for vintage spools, a thrift shop for muslin, and a craft store for embroidery floss. I tucked everything into a wooden cigar box, now my traveling poem spool kit.
So often my work with poetry is head work, invisible. But craft is handwork, full of color and fraying edges. Wood and fabric, ribbon and glue. These things of the world let my head and heart and hand work together, making visible the unseen lines that guide my life. Dyeing muslin. Stitching tiny letters. Wrapping a button. These small hand-acts slow my mind, focusing my attention on just a few words. Making a poem spool is a meditation, a way to sew bits of poem on my soul, just as Mom once sewed circle patches on my Girl Scout sash.
Selecting the line for a new spool says something about the chooser. Should you decide make a poem spool, your heart will lead you to the line you need; you will know. You will run your hands through yellows and greens and oranges and purples, falling in love with so many possible combinations of letter and rainbow. And then, as your grandmothers did before you, you’ll settle into a soft chair stitching and dreaming. You will make something small, and it will only need to fit your happiness.
I like unrolling these spools, thinking about the words and where they will one day live. “Hope is the thing with feathers…” (Emily Dickinson) will fly to my hummingbird photographer friend. I will send “love is place…yes is a world…” (e.e. Cummings) to a poetry loving teacher in Maine who recently sent me a pair of felted mittens. And my next spool, “A star danced…” (Shakespeare) will be a gift for my own poetry teacher’s birthday.
With three children and work I love, my days are full of driving and lessons, e-mail and plans. I am grateful to have found poem spools as a small way give pause, to create tiny oases. For me, making a poem spool is almost like choosing to place a comma in a very long sentence, a reminder to stop and gather breath for the next rush of words.
“Then it is only kindness….” (Naomi Shihab Nye)
“A fire grows simply because the space is there…” (Judy Brown)
“…I stood and loved you while you slept…” (Miller Williams)
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater shares hundreds of poems at The Poem Farm, her site for children, teachers, and all who love poetry. Amy’s first children’s poetry book, FOREST HAS A SONG (Clarion 2013), is a celebration of nature and curiosity. It was selected by U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis as the February 2013 book pick at The Poetry Foundation.
FOREST HAS A SONG page
FOREST HAS A SONG page
Amy is the Author-in-Residence for April 2013 at ReaderKidZ
Click through for your chance to win a copy of FOREST HAS A SONG.