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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Number 323: Kay Ryan "Bad Day"

Bad Day

Not every day
is a good day
for the elfin tailor.
Some days
the stolen cloth
reveals what it
was made for:
a handsome weskit
or the jerkin
of an elfin sailor.
Other days
the tailor
sees a jacket
in his mind
and sets about
to find the fabric.
But some days
neither the idea
nor the material
presents itself;
and these are
the hard days
for the tailor elf.

- Kay Ryan

Hap Notes:
Kay Ryan is one of my favorite contemporary poets. Her style is witty and deep. Her rhymes are clever (did you even notice that it rhymes?). But most of all, her poems are somewhat like mysterious telegrams that you just happened to find laying around. Little wisps of wisdom float through her (sometimes) dark whimsy and if you think there is much, much more to the poem than meets the eye, you are a good reader. Like all good poems, hers seem to be telling you something very personal and exclusive about her and you.

A weskit is a sort of vest (the picture to the right of the masthead- the brown vest) is a weskit. It's another form, as you may suspect, of the word waistcoat. Recently I mentioned to a friend that the word fortnight was fourteen days and fourteen nights shortened to one word. He was terribly disappointed by this practical truncation and was hoping it meant something more magical. So if it disappoints you to know weskit is a shortened form of waistcoat, let me brighten your day by saying that the word jerkin (a sort of vest worn over a coat, usually, and pictured at the right of the masthead in black and white), has no discernible origin. So, I suppose it could be magical.

The point with the weskit and the jerkin is that they are older terms that mean, essentially the same thing. It's just a matter of function and era. Think of this while contemplating the poem.

I hate to do too much interpreting of a poem, don't want to spoil the enchantment of it, but certainly this poem has something to do with the act of creating; art, music, a poem, a good cake. And more. But notice that the creators, like the elfin tailor, are searching for material. Sometimes there is a clear vision of a weskit or a jerkin ( and the differences therein known to the creator) sometimes it isn't there.

Stolen cloth? Well, isn't everything we say or do or write or paint or make derived from something else? Something born of your experiences, your feelings, but certainly influenced by everything you have heard or seen or read? We are all using stolen material in some sense.

The bad days are when you can make nothing from it.

There's more in this small poem than just these few ramblings. Ryan uses every word with efficiency so there are many patterns in this material.

We have already talked about Ryan here.

The background of the masthead today also features "elf coats"-coats made of recycled sweaters that I find delightful They are so colorful and swirly. You can find her (Unique Design) etsy shop here. I don't know this artist at all but I like to credit when I find something so fun.

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