Brenda Kay Ledford, “Art Quilting”

Brenda Kay Ledford

after Gary Snyder’s
“Axe Handles”

One afternoon the first week of October,
Zoe Scroggs shows me how to make
an art quilt. Choose the background fabrics,
cut each piece to the correct length:
blue for sky, purple mountains,
lime-green grass. Dye materials for correct colors.
We use a free motion on the sewing machine,
applique pieces to the batting.
The model is near at hand:
her artwork hangs beside the mandolins,
guitars, banjos, keyboards, and mountain dulcimers
in the Appalachian Sound music store.
I choose the foreground fabrics:
the forest, a rabbit, a rushing stream.
There I begin to piece the art quilt
and the words of Mrs. Bunea Hedden
in my home economics class resound!
“Now girls, match the corners, use tiny stitches.”
And I say to Zoe, “Am I doing this right?”
She nods and I hear it again:
“Use colors that complement each other,”
my teacher said in art appreciation.
The blood of my Cherokee fifth great-grandmother speaks:
“The Native Americans designed the morning star
on hides and in their bead work.”
By stitching the fabrics together, my quilt takes shape.
Now I see:
“Mrs. Hedden was a quilt,
my art teacher was a quilt,
my Cherokee fifth great-grandmother was a quilt,
Zoe Scroggs is a quilt,
and I am a work, a craft taking shape,
a product of my Appalachian culture.

Author’s Comment: In October of 2011 I took Scott Owens’ workshop at the Writers Circle in Hayesville, NC. In his lesson he included examples of poems about a moment in writing. We studied Gary Snyder’s poem, “Axe Handles”. I was inspired by this poet to write my poem “Art Quilting”. I had interviewed an artist, Zoe Scroggs, the first week of October in her husband’s music store. She showed me how to make an art quilt from fabrics. This reminded me of Snyder’s poem about a father teaching his son how to make an ax handle. I incorporated in my poem others who had influenced my life, including previous teachers, and my Cherokee fifth-great grandmother. I am still in the process of developing as a person, and I am a product of my Appalachian culture because quilting is very much a part of my heritage.

Bio: I am a member of North Carolina Poetry Society, North Carolina Writers’ Network and listed with “A Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers.” My work has appeared in “Wild Goose Poetry Review,” “Pembroke Magazine, “Asheville Poetry Review,” “Main Street Rag,” “Dead Mule School of Southern Literature,” “Journal of Kentucky Studies,” and other journals. I received the Paul Green Award from North Carolina Society of Historians for my poetry chapbooks: PATCHWORK MEMORIES, SHEW BIRD MOUNTIAN, and SACRE FIRE.

2 thoughts on “Brenda Kay Ledford, “Art Quilting”

  1. As usual, Brenda takes us into the heart of Appalachia where quilting is an art passed down through generations. Quilts and quilting have become metaphors for life, not only here, but anywhere we put together the pieces of ourselves.

    Great poem, Brenda Kay.

  2. Brenda, I like this poem and I am happy to have heard you read it at the NCWN West Annual Picnic last fall. I’ve often taught Gary Snyder’s poem too, and I am impressed at how you used his poem about how to make an ax handle with how to make a quilt, how the pattern for making of anything is not far off. “You get it right and then you pass it on.”

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