Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Seamstress

I am reading The Seamstress by Frances De Pontes Peebles for a book group I'm in.

"As seamstresses, both she [Emilia] and Luzia knew how to cut, how to mend, and how to conceal." This of course reads as metaphor for things we might do in life, or things we might do as writers or poets, as well as things we would do as seamstresses. Good and great seamstresses also have to know how to be meticulous in taking measurements, and the really great ones can envision the garment on the body and in pieces, cut and laid flat on the table. Umm, Dexter flash there. The cloth, not the body, are cut up in pieces in that last passage...though there are some decapitations in the novel, as it turns out.

"Any seamstress could be meticulous. Novice and expert alike could fuss over measurements and pattern drawings, but precision didn't guarantee success. An unskilled seamstress delivered poorly sewn clothes without trying to hide the mistakes. Good seamstresses felt an attachment to their projects and spent days trying to fix them. Great ones didn't do this. They were brave enough to start over. To admit they'd been wrong, throw away the doomed attempts, and begin again."

Now this last was both inspiration and comfort. I have indeed thrown away sections of my life and whole poems, or major parts of poems, starting all over again! There are times when this can make me, or anybody, feel like "a quitter," and aspects of our American culture that certainly reinforce that. But now that the American "career" is switching over to perhaps 10 years per job before a major change, and 1-3 year stints before a 10-year commitment even begins, this attitude may change. I always love the excitement of change and new beginnings, keeping the edge, not being bored, etc. in work life. As a writer, I can indeed let something go, however much I love it, if the needs of story or poem itself are other than my needs.

I was talking to my daughter yesterday about this, showing her two poems I'd been working on and had let sit long enough to drastically reduce and alter so they could breathe and speak. When I was younger, I didn't know to do this...then I learned it could be done, but it was hard...and now it is a way of being for me.

I hope this means I am capable of becoming a great "seamstress"!