“Light larking”: Floyd Skloot’s “Handspun”

About a year ago, I wrote a quick post about poems related to knitting, an activity I find myself frantically trying to finish most holiday seasons (this year I made three scarves, four cowls, four headbands, and I still owe my son a pair of slippers). I much prefer knitting in a more leisurely fashion, and I love seeing the complex projects skilled knitters (I am not among this number) produce—delicate lace, shawls worked with intarsia so that they look like tapestries, that sort of thing. Most of the best projects I see are made with gorgeous wool, to which I am sensitive if not downright allergic, and some are even made with handspun varieties.

Spinning is an art I’ll never practice, but I do love reading about it. And if you’re ever out in Colorado, the Denver Art Museum features a whole floor devoted to textile arts; when I visited a volunteer was demonstrating how she spins wool into yarn at home. It was absolutely fascinating, and I recommend popping by if you’re able.

Floyd Skloot Handspun quoteWhich brings me to the poem of the week, Floyd Skloot’s “Handspun,” which was featured in this week’s American Life in Poetry series, curated by Ted Kooser (I highly recommend signing up for the weekly email; Mr. Kooser chooses brief, relatable poems, which are paired with his pithy introductions). In this poem, the speaker watches his wife as she begins yarn for a “summer sweater,” one meant to be worn in summer and one that captures in its colors some of summer’s light.

I like the sensory detail of this poem (it features sound and texture and imagery), and I like the way circularity is subtly emphasized: the swivel chair, the spinning wheel, the sun, the woman “ringed” by yarn—all suggesting the act of spinning itself.  The “swollen river” too might be considered  circular, or at least circulating in nature.

But my favorite line is “Light larking between wind and current / will be in this sweater.” What a verb. What a linebreak.

By the way, if you were wondering why the poet’s last name sounds familiar, it might be because he’s the father of Rebecca Skloot, author of the mega-successful The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (which apparently everyone except me has read).

Do you have a favorite poem about one of your hobbies?


Two Poems for Knitting

photoIn late November and into December, I often find myself knitting at night, rushing to catch up with projects destined to become Christmas presents.

I am not a very skilled knitter; I can make rectangles (scarves, small blankets) and things that can be made out of rectangles (leg warmers, arm warmers, bags, vastly oversized laptop covers . . . ). I can’t cable, use double-pointed needles, read a pattern, or reliably tell you what a slip-stitch is. Though I was taught by a talented and generous knitter, I am fairly sure that I’m holding the yarn the wrong way.

Still, I love knitting. I like seeing yarn curved and curled into something new and useful (well, mostly useful), and the sense of satisfaction that comes from weaving in the yarn ends on a scarf or a baby blanket. I’m not good enough that I can take my eyes off the work, so I usually knit while listening to a movie or TV show I’ve seen ten times before and chatting with my husband. It’s all very companionable.

Anyway, today I went looking for poems that talk about knitting, and I found a few; here are my two favorites.

The first, Ciarán Carson’s “The Fetch,” is just wickedly cool (that’s a technical term, by the way); it’s about waking, dreaming, loss, the sea, and distance, and features a nice Dickens reference, too. It’s so good I’m putting his book For All We Know on my Christmas wish list.

The second poem links knitting and waves as well. “A simple co-creator, I trust in simple decorum,” says the speaker of Cory Wade’s “Knitting Litany.” An incredibly skilled knitter, the speaker conjures a list of flora and fauna that descend from her needles, and imagines the waves she builds and builds.

Now, who’s going to teach me how to crochet?