Little Emerson

17 June 2005

Arts & Crafts

chagall - Lovers in the Moonlight
Craftsmen in the moonlight? - Chagall

A few discussions on “craft” lately. Somehow they keep me in tune with the Amish, the way they build things. Any discussion on craft must be a reductio ad absurdum, of poetical sorts. Obviously, you cannot write poetry without a minimum indicia of craft. Words in arrow are a good start. But then again writing poetry according to strict craft may result in poems solid as Quaker chairs. They are solid, unmoving. Though something may be said about the right way to hold nails in your mouth before the last plank goes on to the frame of that house, beware of all houses looking exactly that practical same. Thus “craft” in that sense turns poetry into suburban neighborhoods seen from the sky. I don’t know. How to describe the craft of Lorca? O’Hara? Wordsworth? Shall we call the carpenters’ guild?

It all explains, perhaps, why Donald Hall was once great at scything.

My grandfather taught me scythe mowing, which is a rhythmic motion like dancing or lovemaking. It is a studios sweeping crescent in which the trick is to keep the heel (where blade joins snath) close to the ground, an angle that tilts the scythe point-up, preventing it from catching in the ground. I no longer mow with a scythe …Finding a meter, one abandons oneself to the swing of it; one surrenders oneself to the guidance of object and task, where worker and work are one: There is something ecstatic about mowing with a scythe.”[Donald Hall, Life’s Work, at p. 86.]

There. Don’t you ever forget it. There is nothing ecstatic about mowing with a scythe. Nothing ecstatic about worker and work as one. Ask any worker. Anybody know how to build a hut in the forest? Oh never mind, Mr. Thoreau, I’ll stick to trinkets.


  • hi alberto, re: lorca. there is structure to his work. whether it's the rhythms of the guitars which accompany the flamenco dancers, or the movements of the dancers themselves. in north america, as in lorca's poeta en nueva york, there are musical structures inspired by afro-caribbean folks' traditions.

    i don't know why such violent aversion to 'craft' exists in folks, especially writers. or artists of any kind.

    back to the house. and if it had no sound foundation it'd fall to the ground.

    un abrazo, barbara jane

    By Blogger barbara jane, at Fri Jun 17, 02:27:00 am  

  • Dear Barbara,

    Violent aversion? Me? No, no. Totally non-violent. Please don’t take my poor attempts at irony so seriously. (I seem to be manic and playful lately :-). I have a great deal of respect for “craft” as well as for all the people I linked in my post. Really. Perhaps it is my own lack of craft that is showing through. There must obviously be a balance of craft, intuition, dream, passion, romance, duende…a connection with whatever it is that supposedly connects poets with the nether world. It just seems to me that much of the poetry being written today is so well-crafted that it appears…well…crafted. Poets seem to be looking over their shoulders to see whatever it is everyone else is doing, almost afraid to do their calling, regardless of style, school, etc. I am one who believes that some poets are born out of time; that is, with a style not consonant with their age. That is not their fault. It is the way it is and it is also why one who isn’t a langpo poet shouldn’t write like a langpo poet, regardless of craft. That is the artificiality of craft that I refer to, not CRAFT. Make any sense? No. I thought so.

    Un abrazo,

    By Blogger A.R.B., at Fri Jun 17, 12:11:00 pm  

  • Damn, it's good to read you.


    By Blogger Suzanne, at Fri Jun 17, 08:00:00 pm  

  • Thanks for stopping by, Suzzane. Quiet here, but crafty, ¿no? :-)

    By Blogger A.R.B., at Tue Jun 21, 09:15:00 am  

  • There are ecstatic poets, and worker poets. I think the world needs both.

    By Blogger Patry Francis, at Wed Jun 22, 03:51:00 am  

  • Sure, Patry, but I’m such a gung-ho romantic that I can only understand ecstasy. Seriously, though, there are no set dichotomies for me. Whether moved by Prozac or haying on an August afternoon, the end “product”—the poem—always speaks for itself. I love the way It puts people in their places.

    By Blogger A.R.B., at Wed Jun 22, 11:18:00 am  

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