Catlea orchid left panel

Poetry in glass

Now that National Poetry Month is almost over, it is time I share a couple of my favorite poets and glass works their writing has inspired.

For a 2004 exhibit of our stained glass art at the Afa Gallery in Scranton, Pennsylvania, I created a number of tree designs. At the time I was experimenting with coloring representative forms in unusual ways. A series of four small panels depicted the four seasons as trees, including “Unleaving.” Its title came from a line in “Spring and Fall” by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I love reading Hopkins’ sprung rhythm aloud, delight in his invented words, and savor his multiple meanings.

Autumn tree

Spring and Fall:
to a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why,
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

One of our largest creations for that “solo” show (Jay and I shared the gallery space as an artist team) was “Summer Trees, Days Gone By.” Arts-and-Crafts era ceramics inspired this three-part stained glass window. The title came to me serendipitously while I was thinking of many moments in my life that I connect with trees. Still, the triptych calls to mind the poem by Joyce Kilmer that almost everyone my age memorized in grade school.

Arts-and-Crafts style triptych
Summer Trees, Days Gone By


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

That same year we were commissioned to create a pair of windows for a couple celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary. Orchids, a symbol of love, inspired my design, and a poem by my favorite mystical poet, Jessica Powers, inspired the title: “Blessed Are They Who Stand Upon Their Vow.”

Catlea orchid window pair
Blessed Are They Who Stand Upon Their Vow

The Flower of Love

Whoever first plants the seed in any soil
hitherto fallow,
and cultivates the shoot with humble toil
near steep or shallow–

They will be first to come upon the flower
whose instant glory
can recreate, in even this trivial hour,
the Eden story.

Blessed are they who stand upon their vow
and are insistent
that love in this bleak here, this barren now
become existent.

Blessed are they who battle jest and scorn
to keep love growing
from embryo immaculately born
to blossom showing.

Primarily for them will petals part
to draw and win them.
It, when the pollen finds their opened hearts,
will bloom within them.

April 30, 2015, is National Poem in Your Pocket Day. So print one of these poems or one of your own favorites and carry it with you on Thursday.