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#2 in the Literature Series
Continuing our theme of literature and my personal love of poetry, this is the second in a series of four art quilts for this year, a collaborative effort by the Four-in-Art Quilters, a name chosen because we do four small (12″ square) art quilts per year. For this quarter, I chose e.e. cummings’ poem “[in Just-],” a poem about a balloon man selling balloons in Spring. I’m also following a seasonal theme, as the last art quilt focused on Winter.
e.e. cummings’ poem appears on the surface to be a simple sensory poem about “when the world is puddle-wonderful” and “bettyandisbel come dancing / from hop-scotch and jump-rope.” It’s a world where the wonders of childhood dominate, from mud, “piracies” and “marbles” to the sight of a balloon man with his wares to sell to the children.
But in the last stanza of the poem, the capitalization and descriptions change. The “old balloonman” becomes the “goat-footed balloonMan,” with his whistling pipes and inferences of Pan, a somewhat lascivious ancient god who is half goat, but has the reputation of pursuing the women. Suddenly the poem changes, the games of childhood left behind as Pan brings different games to “eddieandbill” and “bettyandisbel,” games from which they will never stop playing.
(detail of center panel)
When this version is presented by my students to the group (they each have to choose a poem, analyze it and present it), there are some groans, as in, “can’t this just be about balloons and spring and mud and marbles?” Yes, it can. But perhaps e.e. cummings is trying to have us look at two spheres at once: childhood and adulthood, and that razor-thin edge where we cross over from one into another. We then have an interesting discussion (all very G-rated) about when they felt they crossed the dividing line from childhood to adulthood, and the answers vary from when I got my driver’s license, to when I first kissed a boy, to when someone left home, to when they had their first jobs and bills and live-in girlfriends. And so it goes. The balloons of childhood escape from our hands into the heavens, and we can never get them back.
I plan to join all the quilts together when I’m finished; here are the two I’ve completed thus far.
I can’t believe I left off the author’s name, so I hand-wrote it in. There will be a final label when all the four quilts from this series are joined, so I’m just not going to worry about redoing it right now. The “Deconstruction Post” will be next, with some info about how I made this quilt.
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Please visit the other Four-in-Arters, and their quilts around this theme: