Found Poem – Cotton
I once worked at a historical park where my supervisor (a woman) was a curator. She once told me that if she ever had to catalog another doily, she would throw up. She just didn’t think that domestic crafts by ordinary people were worthy of inclusion in our collection.
That really surprised me. I was raised to believe that all handwork was something very special, and I certainly expected that a curator would think so too.
One of my big reasons for writing is to honor the daily work and pastimes of those same people, the ones she thought didn’t rate inclusion in a museum. I leave it to real experts to collect and research the trend-setters or historically important people; I’m just here to show my affection and respect for the ” run-of-the-mill.”
So here is tonight’s attempt, a found poem. All these words and phrases are from a 1915 book with a very un-poetical name, Textiles: A Handbook for the Student and Consumer (MacMillan). I left out lots of words, and repeated some, but I didn’t add any, and I left them in the same order as they appear in the book.
Planted from March until May unexpected frost long wet season ruin an entire planting Planting Must be repeated Diseases attack insect enemies injure the growth ruin the entire crop Disaster Anxious hours The moment displays its seed cotton ripe Picking must begin Gathering done by hand Men, women, and children at work in the fields early morning until late at night Able to discriminate between ripe and unripe Must be repeated late July until frost Machines have been invented - almost human - but nothing has been adopted for this purpose A picker can gather two hundred pounds a day Early morning until late at night late July until frost November or even December Long sacks slung on the shoulder trailing after He goes along on padded knees Must be repeated One hundred pounds of cotton - forty or fifty cents Sixteen million bales five hundred pounds each thirty-four million acres Must be repeated
That’s really beautiful, and moving – so much history, good and bad, in cotton, and the phrases you chose echo it all.
Thanks, I enjoyed writing it. That book was written as a college textbook, but its writing style is flowing instead of dry, and I thought there was a lot of rhythm in its phrasing.