This is another shot of the scrap quilt I finished last week. I'm almost done another one and I'm dreaming up one more to start this weekend. The obsession lives on.
I was googling quilts and poetry and found myself a collection of breathtaking poems by Sandra McPherson, Professor of English at University of California, Davis. She's published a growing list of books of poems, many about quilts, and also published in the university journal Spark. In an interview with Spark editors she says,
Spark: I know you admire African American quilts. Do you only collect quilts made by African Americans?
SM: I've broadened out a bit. As long as a quilt is improvisational, as long it goes beyond repeating the same old pattern, it's interesting to me. I like asymmetry; I like it when they run out of cloth and have to do something else that doesn't match. Recently I bought a quilt that has all the aspects I admire about African American quilts, but it was made by a Polish woman in the 1920's. Others that are anonymous I buy because they have that aesthetic—changing the pattern, not static—I'm not the quilt fancier who says, "Oh, look at the small stitches." I appreciate everybody's quilts, but the small stitches don't interest me at all. I'm more interested in the ones quilted with string, or large stitches going across as fast as they can.
I got the Esther Mack quilt in Chicago. I eventually sold it to the University, at cost, to the African American Studies department. It's there in their quilt room in an acid free box; you can go and look at it, and it would have a little bit of history on Esther Mack—the little bit that I knew—perhaps if she had come from Mississippi, where she was born, or about how old she was when I got the quilt (in the mid or late 80's). I would sleep under every quilt that I bought, at least once. That was part of the research I did to write about them, feel their weight, their specific warmth; they really don't feel alike, the different ways that they press on you. This was one of the first quilt poems I wrote. I was certainly worried about making them [the poems] work; I didn't know if I could.
Isn't that fascinating? Here is one of the poems she wrote about that particular quilt:
Esther Mack's Utility Quilt with the
Lights in It
When Esther Mack ignited her first star
from exhausted aprons, she slept
with the weight of that star on her right foot,
just where she could kick it into space.
A pair of purer, one-color shinings
floated where her husband breathed.
The rest of the quilt she spangled with squares
to clash and keep the three big suns awake.
Always, at some hour, the tired star would say to her,
boost me up into the darkness--
Links to more of her work here.
Friday Poetry is being rounded up at Read. Imagine. Talk. Enjoy your weekend!