Poetry can be found in the most unexpected places. In these modern times all about inventiveness and innovation, pen and paper isn’t the only way to go. Verse pops up on public transport, is scrawled on walls, can even be condensed into 140 characters. Truly, poetry is woven into the very fabric of life – and what better way to demonstrate this by sewing snippets of poems into the seams of clothing? The most desirable designs of the moment aren’t to be found in the fashion houses of London, Paris, New York and Milan but in the thrift stores of Miami. Never mind Prada and Karl Lagerfeld; the labels to be spotted in right now come from Plath and Li Po.
Taking part in the increasingly popular art of ‘poetry bombing’ (which despite the name, is actually a good thing) Argentinian artist Agustina Woodgate has constructed a fascinating project which aims to place poetry directly into the lives of a wide range of people, by putting it in something that is utterly essential. Armed with the weapons of needle and thread, and some inspirational and affirming words – quite appropriately, skirts are supplied with the line ‘Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts’ from Poppies In October by Sylvia Plath, while otherwise standard workaday suit jackets and trousers are given a lift with Li Po’s reminder ‘Life is a huge dream /why work so hard?’ – Agustina turns second-hand garments into pieces of poetry infused couture, surreptitiously; she buries herself amongst the rails hoping not to be noticed as she sews in the lines, keen to keep the element of surprise for purchasers. As well as providing the joy of unexpected discovery, Agustina hopes that by providing clothes with a ‘voice’ people who have not generally come across poetry will begin to readily embrace the written word. She explains: “Sewing poems in clothes is a way of bringing poetry to everyday life just by displacing it, by removing it from a paper to integrate it and fuse it with our lives. Sometimes little details are stronger when they are separated from where they are expected to be.” It’s not just restricted to the rails however; the Poetry Tags project is being extended to reach residents of a women’s refuge, allowing them not only to sew together but also share stories, memories and experiences with each other. The thread of poetry bringing inanimate objects to life and also weaving lives together – really, it’s the perfect metaphor made true.
At The Reader Organisation, we’ve always believed that the power of poetry is at its most potent when it becomes embedded in the very heart of the ordinary and everyday. Perhaps what is most striking about this method of presenting poetry, along with the edible poetry cakes, poems-in-a-tin and pick n’ mix poetry that make up poet Sally Crabtree’s Word M’art supermarket-themed poetry project, are not just that they are creative and hugely fun but because, like the words they channel, they get to the core of us. As well as providing important things like shelter and sustenance, clothes and food make strong statements about us as individuals, with the choices we make speaking volumes. It’s often said that we are what we wear or eat, so crucial are such things to our lives. In the same way, certain poems speak to us and certain poets can, through their words, identify much about who and what we are, talking of life in all its forms and giving the inspiration to live the biggest and best we can. To celebrate Agustina’s amazing work – and to further define how connections in life can be so closely stitched together – is this rather appropriate poem by Walt Whitman. Not only does the act of weaving here produce powerful results – as Agustina’s project is clearly doing – but its power is seemingly unstoppable; even when not required to do so any longer, we shall ‘forever weave’. And forever will poetry be woven into us all, even if some discover the threads before others.
Weave In, My Hardy Life
Weave in, weave in, my hardy life,
Weave yet a soldier strong and full for great campaigns to come,
Weave in red blood, weave sinews in like ropes, the senses, sight weave
Weave lasting sure, weave day and night the wet, the warp, incessant
weave, tire not,
(We know not what the use O life, nor know the aim, the end, nor
really aught we know,
But know the work, the need goes on and shall go on, the
death-envelop’d march of peace as well as war goes on,)
For great campaigns of peace the same the wiry threads to weave,
We know not why or what, yet weave, forever weave.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)