Monday, November 2, 2009

Knit a Poem: Craft Meets Literature in a Big Way

The British Poetry Society recently sponsored a project that involved over 1,000 knitters and crocheters from around the globe. To celebrate their centenary, the Poetry Society decided to create a knitted poem - a really large knitted poem. The poem was constructed from 12-inch squares - one letter per square - with the poem itself remaining a closely guarded secret. The final poem measured approximately 10 yards by 14 yards. (Picture that on a football field to get an idea of the scope!)

Regretfully, I didn't find out about this project in time to blog about it, but I was able to contribute one tiny square. My knitting skills are really basic, but I'm a fairly advanced crocheter and the P. Society was accepting crocheted squares as well as knitted ones, so I e-mailed the person coordinating the project to ask if there was still time to join in and was excited to get my 'assignment' later that day. I was disappointed to learn that the letters were being knitted and that the crocheters were creating the blank squares used to separate words. It was a little like finding out you're going to be a Scrabble letter, dreaming of being a 'Z' or 'Q' then ending up as a blank tile. Oh well, I only had two days in which to complete my task and that included choosing a color. Despite years of crocheting baby blankets, ensuring the square was truly square and exactly 12" did require a little concentration. But, it was mailed with 10 days to make it to London and I was happy with the way it turned out - even if it was just a blank!

The Poetry Society organized sewing sessions where volunteers sewed the squares together - and still the poem was a secret. Then on October 7 it was unveiled at London's British Library - and the poem was revealed. There's no way to find out the location of my square, but I think it's under the 'I' in 'their' in the top left part of the photo below (it's bright green):

I think this was a very clever way to commemorate one hundred years. I'd love to think of my own project that could involve lots of people working together to create something fun. When I was a Junior Girl Scout in the 1970s, our troop participated in a statewide quilt - one troop from each of the 100 counties sewed a square that represented their county. These were used to make a quilt that was displayed in the Governor's Mansion or perhaps the Legislature - the details are a bit fuzzy. I had not thought about that quilt in years, but crocheting my poem square reminded me of it. Okay, so there's a project for me - find out what happened to that quilt! I'll let you know if I locate it . . .

The knitted poem will be displayed in different cities in the UK - check the Poetry Society website for details. And the big question - what was the poem? 'In My Craft or Sullen Art' by Dylan Thomas. I think you'll like it - it's especially nice to read while you're sewing or knitting or thinking about sewing or knitting . . .

In My Craft or Sullen Art by Dylan Thomas

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

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