Saturday, December 19, 2009

Things As They Are

"Things as they are/Are changed upon the blue guitar."
-Wallace Stevens

I’ve been troubled by computer problems and an inconstant internet these past few days.  I had to remind myself there was a time when such things were not only unnecessary, but not even available.  I had to think:  what, then, were the things I used to use?

I no longer own a typewriter, so I looked around for a notebook and a pen.  I found them foreign objects, and inefficient.  I looked for a dictionary, but had only a small paperback that didn’t contain what I required.  I wanted confirmation of something I’d been told:  that the etymological root of the word “poet” was “maker.”  Without my usual tools to search, I was thrown back on my own experience for proof.

Our poet-friend is certainly a maker.  Not just of lovely poems, though that is beyond argument, but also other things.  It is essential to her, I think, to make things daily:  clever little pin cushions and coasters made from scraps of cloth, place-setting markers of stiff paper adorned with simple drawings or on which are fastened a single leaf.  She makes books of poems, too:  folded paper bound by a bit of thread.

She is the only person I know who sews.  I tried to think when I’d last had need of a straight pin—or, for that matter, a needle—and couldn’t remember.  Let alone the last time I’d seen a packet containing a pattern from which a smock or jumper might be cut out.  Are such things even sold anymore?

I kept coming back to the photograph of a painting of a tomato I’d found (thus, a tomato twice removed).  How appealing it was!  More appealing, somehow, than a real tomato—but also real itself.  I thought, too, of the drawings and paintings of another maker of lovely things, the background taken from, perhaps, the liner of an envelope, and drawn on it, maybe, a shard of pottery washed up on the beach.  And I thought of the rubber shoe sole made into a boat that couldn’t float.

Wallace Stevens is right, I see:  just as a picture of a tomato is a thing distinct from the tomato, so any poem or work of art is "part of the res itself and not about it."  The equation is, in fact, simple enough:  a made thing is a real thing, too.


  1. Yes - "res ipsa loquitur" - I look around my home at the things that evoke memories; they've taken on a life of their own within my life.

  2. What a great observation--and what a clever use of "res ipsa loquitur": indeed, the thing does speak for itself!

  3. Interesting post. I do believe that creative people, like your poet friend, can be creative across many types of media. If she can't write, she can sew that day instead.

    Love the concept of the "tomato twice removed." Yes, it is its own thing, separate from the original fruit.


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