Honoring National Poetry Month at the Rakow Research Library

What better way to honor National Poetry Month than to focus on the collection of glass-related poetry at the Rakow Research Library?  The Library has a modest group of poems about glass or glassmaking collected from various sources over the years, including direct submission by the poet.  It even has a poem written about the Museum!

A file full of poems at the Rakow Research Library

Poems about glass collected by the Rakow Research Library. (Photograph by The Corning Museum of Glass)

One example of a glass-related poem is by the esteemed Amy Lowell (1874-1925), an American poet who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1926, a year after her death.  Her poem, “Fragment,” was first published in 1912, in a book of her poetry called A Dome of Many-Colored Glass.  In the piece, Lowell compares poetry to mosaics  (which are created by building a pattern or picture from raw materials – glass stones or fragments for mosaics and words for poems)  and to glass vessels (which are created, like poems, from hard work into objects of art and beauty).

Image of a mosaic glass tabletop, CMoG accession 97.3.10

Mosaic Glass Tabletop, about 1866. (97.3.10)

Fragment

What is poetry?  Is it a mosaic
Of coloured stones which curiously are wrought
Into a pattern?  Rather glass that’s taught
By patient labor any hue to take
And glowing with a sumptuous splendor, make
Beauty a thing of awe; where sunbeams caught,
Transmuted fall in sheafs of rainbows fraught
With storied meaning for religion’s sake.

Another noteworthy example of a glass-related poem was published in a 1713 book called Miscellany Poems on Several Occasions Written by a Lady.  The poem, called “Glass,” is by English noblewoman Anne Kingsmill Finch (1661-1720).  In this poem, she marvels at windows (which divide light and air, letting light into homes while blocking wind), mirrors (which provide reflections), and vessels such as wineglasses.

Image of a mirror, CMoG accessioin 98.3.18

Reverse Painted Mirror in Gilded Wood
Frame, about 1720-1730. (98.3.18)

Glass

O Man! what Inspiration was thy Guide,
Who taught thee Light and Air thus to divide;
To let in all the useful Beams of Day,
Yet force, as subtil Winds, without thy Shash to stay;
T’extract from Embers by a strange Device,
Then polish fair these Flakes of solid Ice;
Which, silver’d o’er, redouble all in place,
And give thee back thy well or ill-complexion’d Face.
To Vessels blown exceed the gloomy Bowl,
Which did the Wine’s full excellence controul,
These shew the Body, whilst you taste the Soul.
Its colour sparkles Motion, lets thee see,
Tho’ yet th’ Excess the Preacher warns to flee,
Lest Men at length as clearly spy through Thee.

Although by no means comprehensive, the Library’s collection of glass-related poetry contains a variety of poets, styles, and subjects, as well as a date range of over 200 years.  Check it out the next time you visit. The Library also welcomes you to submit a glass-related poem of your own, any time, to reference@cmog.org.