Poems about makers
October 21, 2021 12:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for poems about makers, about building, about working with your hands, about creating things. Do you have any suggestions?

They can be poems specifically about making. For instance, Frank Bidart:

There is something missing in our definition, vision, of a human
being: the need to make.

We are creatures who need to make.

Because existence is willy-nilly thrust into our hands, our fate is to
make something— if nothing else, the shape cut by the arc of our

Or Thomas Lux:

You make the thing because you love the thing
and you love the thing because someone else loved it
enough to make you love it.

Or about the act of creating something by hand, like Wendell Berry:

Their saws released
the warm pine-smell into the air
— the scent of time to come, freshly

Or about any aspect, good or bad, about creating something.
posted by not_the_water to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: Digging by Seamus Heaney.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:32 PM on October 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Shirt by Robert Pinsky.

Poet's Work by Lorine Niedecker.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:43 PM on October 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To be of use, Marge Piercey
In the sweatshop, Morris Rosenfeld, tr. Leo Wiener
Ode to Joy, Miroslav Holub, tr. George Theiner
Ode to my socks, Pablo Neruda, tr. Robert Bly
posted by zamboni at 2:11 PM on October 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A little tangential, but Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden touches on this.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:39 PM on October 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Came here to suggest Seamus Heaney's Digging, but also Earle Birney's El Greco: Espolio

First line:

The carpenter is intent on the pressure of his hand...
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:57 PM on October 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Love Song: I and Thou by Alan Dugan.
posted by jesourie at 4:32 PM on October 21, 2021

Best answer: Going very old school, there is The Song of the Shirt, about the horrible conditions of the working poor in mid-1800s England.

Also old school, and quite sentimental, is Longfellow's The Village Blacksmith.
posted by FencingGal at 5:57 PM on October 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Perhaps not what you're thinking of, but Exodus 35–40 has a long, beautiful (to me), tedious (to others) description of the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Acacia wood, crimson, gold, etc, all to very exact specifications.

"And all the skilled women spun with their own hands, and brought what they had spun, in blue, purple and crimson yarns, and in fine linen..."
posted by epanalepsis at 6:19 PM on October 21, 2021

Best answer: I can't find a link to it anywhere (it was featured on Pome, Matthew Ogle's poetry newsletter, a few years ago, and I just have it saved in my email), but here is "The truth is", a Swampy Cree narrative poem (translated by Howard Norman in 1972):

The truth is
I have mud on my hands
from digging roots

The truth is
I brought them to you

It is the truth
I worked to get them
and complained
while digging them up

The truth is
once I got back here
and saw your face
it didn't matter,

that work

posted by airplant at 9:05 PM on October 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The quite ambivalent Mending Wall.

Carol Ann Duffy, Penelope

It's actually fairly common in epic poetry to have significant passages describing the making of a hero's armor or weaponry or finery, but it may not quite be the kind of lyric you may be looking for.
posted by praemunire at 9:06 PM on October 21, 2021

Best answer: Pedantic me rejected Seamus Heaney's Digging Ncited above because it was more doing than making. Whitman's Sparkles from the Wheel ticks the doing box too, although the knife-grinder creates a) sparkles b) edges.

Several poems entitled Origami? Marjorie Evasco - Joyce Sutphen.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:40 AM on October 22, 2021

Best answer: Perhaps slightly tangential also, but as a sculptor, Sylvia Plath's The Collossus speaks volumes to me about both making and the loss of a parent.
posted by Chairboy at 2:57 AM on October 22, 2021

Best answer: Goethe's "Natur und Kunst" is my go-to any time I hit a boundary and need to keep working.

Translating poetry is hard, but there's a link to an English translation at the bottom of that page. My German teacher in high school made us memorize this and a few others, and I never thanked them.

And I can't get started on a Mary Oliver rabbit-hole this early on a workday, but maybe Song of the Builders?
posted by adekllny at 6:10 AM on October 22, 2021

Best answer: Poetry adjacent: lyrics to the song "The Mason" from the musical Working.
posted by Quaversalis at 9:44 AM on October 22, 2021

The Creation, James Weldon Johnson
posted by Rhaomi at 11:20 PM on October 23, 2021

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