Sunday, May 24, 2009

Right Angles

My father spends these days in wood –

Strong, hard oak that turns to smooth-grained

Treasures in his hands. Time and trials have taught

Him that to create the form he seeks, he first

Must put his heart into the piece.

I love to watch him move about his shop,

His big, rough hands touching planer and saw,

Holding router and clamp, reaching through the dust

Of creation he wears in every wrinkle and crease.

He says that his work must be square

So the bonds will hold and the fit will be true.

Carefully, he sights along the cut and chisels the waste away,

Proving the lessons of his work: “Right angles,”

He tells me, “make the best geometry.”


  1. Having worked with wood I know how hard it is to get it to the perfect right angles so that they fit perfectly.

    I was never able to get it nearly as perfect.

    Lovely write up Karen.

    The RIGHT angles are good for everything in life. :)

  2. How sincerely and full of admiration these words ease across the monitor before me. You have crafted a perfect poem filled with "right-angles" - making the bond hold tight! You are fortunate to still have your parents with you, and they are blessed to have you for a daughter! (okay - now...sniff, sniff - gotta pull myself together)

    I could site the whole poem as favorite lines -

    Time and trials have taught
    Him that to create the form he seeks, he first
    Must put his heart into the piece

    It is clear that you have put your heart into THIS piece. Aside from the warm sentiments this poem exudes, great form and attention to craft! Just fab, my friend. ;D

  3. A Dusty Life

    The dust of work fills
    my passing days, whether here
    before the small words
    or in the ivy
    unruly I must cut down, or in
    the stairwell I climb
    to reach the tower
    where all the sugar is stored.
    This dust fills my life.

  4. Hi Karen, I was going to quote the lines that K did, but I'll just say that they are so touching, and you have clearly learned that very same touch in your poetry crafting. Beautiful tribute to dad. :-)

  5. I just spent a week visiting family and watched my brother-in-law turn a perfume applicator on his lathe. He has a cabinet full of beautiful little bits of wood he calls 'blanks' that sit there waiting for him to decide which will best embody the form he seeks. He told me exactly the same thing about work being square and showed me a little tool made to ensure it was. I'm sure there are metaphors and parallels aplenty for poets in a woodworkers shop. A lovely tribute to your da and to craftsmen of whatever sort.

  6. My brother's a brilliant carpenter. He's made some outstanding pieces out of blocks of wood. I know a lot of hard work and love for the material goes into it.
    Your poem expresses your love for your father as you watch him work. It's beauty in itself to read.

  7. Aniket - The metaphors in working straight are enormous. Sometimes, it's good to be "square"! :-) Thanks for your comments.

    Kaye - I know how blessed I am. My dad is still in relatively good health, but Mother is beginning to fail in both body and mind -- so difficult to see her becoming someone else... yet, I gladly accept this and anything else to come.

    Thank you for your comments on the lines. This was a long time in the making because I couldn't quite capture it. Thank you for being a wonderful support.

    Christopher - The dust settles everywhere and can mean so many things. I really should have taken a picture of my dad when he's in the flow -- he's covered from his still-wavy hair to his toes with sawdust. We all wear our dust, only many of us aren't so fortunate as to have the dust of creation on us. I'm really glad he does (and I think we, here on the blogs, do, too!)

    Cat - Thank you for that. If I put nothing else into them, I do put my heart. I think that's why I still don't share them with some very important people in my life -- afraid it would break... :-(

    Mairi - I love the coincidence of your experience and your brother-in-law's words. You know exactly what I mean. This is meant as a tribute to the lessons I've learned from my dad, but I also meant the parallels to apply to life and to all artists (even us :-D)!

    Margaret - Thank you for saying that. I think we're all putting our hearts into this, but this poem is a tribute to my father and the lessons I've learned from him.

    Margaret -

  8. A lovely tribute to dad. I loved it.The visuals of his hands working the wood.

  9. Beautiful! A touching tribute.

    Right angles, true and strong. I can feel that way of life.

  10. Thank you for this moment spent with your Dad and the childhood memories I hold, watching my own father "work wonders" with wood. Yes, dear Karen, right angles, right intention, most beautifully conveyed.

  11. No wonder I feel frustrated - i mostly have the *wrong* angles, lol. Cheers to aspiring for the *right*'s good advise.

  12. Hi, Karen! Every time I come over here and say "excellent, beautiful, and wonderful," I hope you don't think I'm just trying to be nice. I mean, I love that we're blog friends. That is the greatest feeling, and I'm so pleased to get to know you and that kind heart of yours. But I truly mean it when I tell you how excited I get when I see your work.

    The form you have going is beautiful. I can see the right angles. I also LOVE that you didn't cut the line "Carefully, he sights along the cut and chisels the waste away,". You have a real feel for breath and rhythm. It also draws my eye to the line and makes it stand out in a wonderful way.

    As always, I love the "double meanings" in your work. This poem is about your father, but it could also be used as an excellent example for a classroom discussion (or any discussion) about writing poetry. We have to whittle and plane and shape it with dust and sweat.

    I agree with everyone that the details are so powerful! You make me smell the wood dust. The best part of all is that you show me your father in a beautiful way. That second stanza is sheer awesomeness!! The dust of creation in every wrinkle and crease...yeah!!

    I was having a debate with another friend last week, and he claims there is very little good poetry on blogs. I told him to read your work and K's...and several other people I know. You are proof that he is wrong. I get so excited when I see what you are doing. I wish I could sit next to you in a workshop, but blogging is the next best thing. Excellent work. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Cherie - thanks, dear! Hope all is well...

    Printemps - thanks to you, and thanks for visiting.

    Jason - Yes, in woodworking and in all we do - keeping the angles right is so important. Thanks for your comments.

    Rose Marie - So many of us can connect with the messages or images or feelings of poetry. I'm glad this one brought back those memories for you for just a moment. Thank you for your comments.

    Jana - I'm sure you're forming the right angles, but yes, it is good advice, learned from long living on his part. Maybe you're just not old enough? ;-)

    Julie - I don't know what to say. Thank you! Your praise is way too generous, but I'll take it, I'll take it!! Seriously, though, I appreciate your feedback, especially because you give me specifics about form, lines, etc. I do wish we could sit in a workshop and discuss as we work. I keep thinking I'll look for a writing group here, but with my job and family responsibilities right now, it would be really hard to find the time. That's why most of the things I put up here feel like drafts that I'm sure I'll rework in the future.

    As for this poem, thank you for pointing out a couple of things -- the dust of creation (an image that really captures my dad when he's in the midst of working) and the line about sighting along the cut. That's really where the poem began. I have worked and reworked this poem but I was determined to keep that line. I wanted to say the part about chiseling the waste away. That was important to me. Anyway, you don't want a dissertation, but suffice it to say, I did put a lot of thought into this because it is about my dad, and it had to be just "right."

    Thanks for including me in the poetry you recommended to your friend. I've found some real gems here on the blogs, too, but also some not-so-shiny sites. Fortunately, I stumbled into a community that contains some true quality writing and writers. I'M AN ENGLISH MAJOR; I SHOULD KNOW!!! :-D

    Thank you for being such a great support.

  14. nicely done karen, captured it all in a few words :)

  15. laughingwolf - Thank you. He's pretty incredible to be able to do what he does self-taught.

  16. Oh, I really love this one, Karen. Something about the combination of heart and head that makes the most perfect and true of shapes.

    You are always so deliciously attuned to the way your poems read. The reflection of those right angles in your form was so satisfying. Your tools are just as powerful as your Dad's, and your product as exact. :)

    A beautiful and touching tribute. I now know that your dad is just as remarkable as his daughter.

  17. Karen, this is so touching and beautiful. And I can't help but wonder--has your dad seen it?? Sometimes secrets must be revealed... :)

    I also wanted to let you know that I got my results and everything turned out fine. Thank you so much for your support!!! It was more important than you could know.

  18. Dear Karen,

    I feel blessed to receive your gifts of life. And know that with you ...

    I share in the capture of those same moments
    The call of the poet's pen is heard
    Touched by the same beauty of spirit
    And this gift of life, The Word....

  19. Sarah - What a wonderful comment you have left here! I am truly blessed to have a creative, inventive father, whose love of literature, too, informed my youth and made wordplay an everyday activity. Besides his creativity (he calls it "piddling"), he has a great sense of whimsy and fun. He's a most delightful old guy, and I know how very lucky I am to have him (and all his faculties) still with me. I'm one of few ofmy group of friends who still has both parents. I think I appreciate them all the more for knowing that.

    Your words about my poetry are much, much appreciated.

    Jennifer - First, YAY!! for good results!!! I am so happy about that!!!

    Next, thank you for your comments. I do think I'll share this with my dad. If I do, it will be their first inkling that I'm writing at all. I thought I might print it nicely and frame it for Father's Day. What do you think about that?

    Rose Marie - I'm smiling in gratitude.

  20. his creative soul shines through in your work too, karen :)

  21. "I thought I might print it nicely and frame it for Father's Day. What do you think about that?"

    There would be no equal to such a gift. I can feel the joy that it would most certainly bring.

  22. You're quite welcome, Karen. It's a pleasure. And thanks for all the laughs this week. It has really cheered me up. I almost choked on your last comment. Never drink and read at the same time:D And of course, thanks for your encouragement. Have a beautiful weekend! See ya soon.

  23. Okay, I'm answering for Jennifer here, but I just have to say: DO IT!!! :D

    I believe it would mean so much to him. I did something similar for my mother on a Mother's Day, and nothing I've ever given her has pleased her more.

  24. That is a really nicely-wrought poem-- a fine tribute to a woodworker. After reading the discussion in the comments, I'd also recommend giving this to your father as a father's day gift. It's good to say these things while we can.

  25. laughingwolf - Thanks, friend.

    Rose Marie, Sarah, and John - I have decided to take the plunge. This will be the first poem of mine that they've seen. Dad, who loves poetry but thinks it should rhyme, may not recognize it for poetry, but he'll certainly know the feeling behind it. Until then, I'll just keep my fingers crossed. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Julie-Julie - Hope the trip was great!!

  26. that to create the form he seeks, he first
    must put his heart into the piece
    How true this is, Karen! And what a wonderful tribute to your Dad!

  27. Thank you, Vesper. As several others have said, I think it applies across many artistic realms.

  28. Thanks for your visit today. A response is posted.

    This post is a gift to your Dad and to each of us in many ways. You have given each of us an opportunity to celebrate with you, and to extend our heartfelt wishes for a most Happy Father's Day.