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I grew up near Boston as the youngest of a family of women who sewed. My grandmother, mother, aunt and older sisters sewed everything -- dresses, casual clothes, coats, draperies, furniture coverings, bedding, toys. My mother even sewed ties for my father. It was a matter of course that weekends would include a stop at a fabric store followed by hours of sewing on the dining table. Not wanting to be left out of things, I demanded a seat at the sewing table, too, when I was four years old. Doll clothes and doll bedding were my specialties in those early years. I remember a particular and deep-seated fondness for ruffles, rickrack and gingham.
I also grew up writing -- stories and school news pieces while I was young and then articles and grants for newspapers and universities as an adult. I took up poetry and fiction as my next writing ventures when my children were young. Writing poetry and fiction became a way to keepittogether-keepittogether-keepittogether in the midst of household crazy.
Casting about for ideas as I worked through a book of poetry-writing exercises, I decided to make every exercise about some aspect of sewing. I had taken up sewing again at that time -- cloth dolls for my children, quilts for our home -- and was rather obsessed with fabric, color, design, sewing machines and just about every sewing project I ran into. Writing poems about sewing was a natural combination of two long-standing interests. When I had enough sewing poems for a collection, I stitched some illustrations, hired an editor and a book designer and a printer and a web designer and got myself a book to sell. Behold!
My family and I have been settled for many years in a small town in western New York. I still sew and write regularly. At the moment, I'm free-motion quilting a couch throw at my sewing table. One room over, a collection of poems about gardening and the countryside and a stack of short stories are taking shape in my office. A collection of food poems may follow. So many interests, not enough time ....
Nebraskan poet and 2004-2006 U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser deserves credit for sparking my interest in writing poetry and for encouraging me (through his books) to keep at it. In particular, his advice in The Poetry Home Repair Manual to “relish the quiet hours at your desk” has resonated deeply as I've undertaken the arduous task of writing poetry. I thank Ted and other writers of friendly, thought-provoking poetry handbooks for making poetry a warm, living thing.
Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Rochester, NY
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