A Poetic Look at the Romance of Crafting and Living


"I just want to make something with my hands." It is becoming the mantra for legions of office dwellers leaving behind successful jobs to pursue work as "artisans". This romance of craftsmanship, this allure of making is most beautifully put into words by the incomprable Pablo Neruda.

Pablo Neruda's poem Ars Poetic (1)

As carpenter-poet, first
I fit the wood to my need—
on the knotty or satiny side:
then I savor the smell with my hands,
smell the colors, take the fragrant
entirety, the whole system
of silence, into my fingertips
and slip off to sleep, or transmigrate,
or strip to the skin and submerge
in woody well-being:
the wood’s circumlocutions.

Then I cut the board
of my choice
with the sputtering points of my saw:
from the plank come my verses,
like chips freed from the block,
sweet-smelling, swarthy, remote,
while the poem lays down its deck
and its hull, calculates list,
lifts up its bulk by the road
and the ocean inhabits it.

As a baker: I prepare
what is needed—fire, flour,
leaven, the heart of the baker—
and wade in, to my elbows,
kneading the glow of the oven
into watery green language,
so the bread on the paddle
brings buyer to baker.

Or perhaps I was fated—
though some never suspected it—
to live like a blacksmith: the least
I would ask for myself and for others
is a metallurgical medium.

In this free confraternity
I’ve no burning allegiances.
I was always a lone iron-monger.

Keeping close watch on my broken
machinery, I move off with my junkpile
to some other uninhabited region
glossed by the wind.
There I dig for new metals
and turn what I am into words.

Granted: one poet’s experience
with manual metaphysics
doesn’t make poetics;
but I’ve pared by nails to the quick
to temper my craft
and these shabby prescriptions
I learned for myself, at first hand:
if you find them uncouth
for a poet’s vocation,
I agree—no apologies needed!
I smile toward the future
and am gone before you can give me your reasons.

How gorgeous are those words that will live fovever? Once those delicate words were formed from thought and once pen was put to paper, the poem lives on. It becomes more than just lines of words and becomes the feelings that you, and I, have upon reading those lines. There is romance in that.

Just like those poetic lines, more than just wood connected in precise fashion, our furniture is about the people who interact with it. It is about the stories associated with each piece. It is that indescribable feeling of opening your grandmother's drawer and, with eyes closed, being transported to her home. There is romance in that.

There is love and beauty in the lasting nature of wood, certainly. There is elegance and artistry in the making, in the creation, but the life and soul is an ongoing process. The life and soul comes not from the maker but from the taker… and there is romance in that.

ngoc cao

Posted by ngoc cao

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