Hello, Reader, and happy Tuesday. I’ve been here and there — orientation meetings, packing lunches, making hurried last-minute purchases of shoes that fit, and taking care of my nephew for the week. I not a little baby! he says over and over. And no, he’s not — he’s two. I confess, I’ve never thought twos were all that terrible; I love the age. And I’ve loved having my nephew around the house. I’ve tried to keep my poetry expectations reasonable, and have spent 90% of my writing time working on an application — with a little morning reading and writing to keep the poetry muscles limber.
Still, poetry always seems to find me (does this ever happen to you?). On Sunday, while my boys had their hair cut, I was wandering through an art fair up in the College Town, and I came across the most amazing little shadowboxes. Here’s one:
Can you see the teeny-tiny woman on the bottom of the box? The artist, Lisa Swerling, calls these works of art “glass cathedrals.” I was so intrigued by them that I asked her how she began making them, and what her process is.
Lisa told me that a friend had given her a tiny figurine of a man that, for some reason she (Lisa) didn’t understand, she carried around for years. She didn’t know what she would ever do with the man figurine, but she knew she had to keep it.
Then one day, she thought, I wonder what would happen if I put him in a box? So she did. She talked about how the world can seem enormous and we can feel so small. She talked about how tiny things can become bigger, and enormous things smaller, when they’re put into a box. And, she said (I’m paraphrasing, but closely): “Once I put him in a box, he became part of a whole little world.” She meant the world inside the box.
Of course, the whole time, I was thinking about poems.
You know that little scrap of language you’ve been carrying around for years — the one you’re not sure what to do with? Yes, I’m thinking about that little scrap of language, and about what might happen if you put it in a little box.
The little box of a poem.
The poem-box might be made of constraints you put in place: I will use these 5 words, the poem will be one long sentence, no longer than 10 lines. Or the poem box might be made of a traditional form: a sonnet, a villanelle, a (Saints preserve us!) sestina. Or perhaps the poem box is made of a traditional poem with a window punched through it, or the door wide open — a variation on a traditional form, I mean. Or the poem box might even build itself as you go along, and notice the shape (literal and figurative) this poem seems to take. Then you’ll have this teeny tiny scrap of language inside a box.
Yes, the poem might assemble a whole little world.
If you’d like to see more of Lisa Swerling’s glass cathedrals and learn more about her work, visit her website here. Personally, I’m going to start saving my allowance so I can buy one.
Whatever little world you’re assembling today, I hope you enjoy being in it.