I was swallowed by a whale named making something from nothing and it came up for air just now. What I mean to say is: I’ve been taken over by the deep focus and resulting joy of making my own tools from scraps I’ve scrounged up at Boat School. The piece pictured here is a little rabbet plane made from a rusted chunk of angle iron, an old chisel and a small piece of walnut. I ground the slag and rust off of the angle iron, cut it to size on the metal band saw, shaped the walnut handle, half-lapped it to marry the metal, cut the mouth, fashioned the blade from the old chisel and the adjusting cap from leftover angle iron, etc. etc. It shines and feels good to hold. And beyond that, it works.
I’ve made and repaired a number of planes now, one of the boatbuilders’ most used tools, and I find it deeply satisfying. Building tools that will in turn help me build boats. It’s a lot like writing, really. I have to look around, be intentional, work with materials that are constantly overturning my expectations, fail, be inventive, fail, revise, revise and refine.
Working with wood is a reductive art and in many ways poetry is no different. Put some shining piece of the world in your hands and take away all the unnecessary parts until you have the piece that looks and feels just right.
It’s a great journey I’ve started and I can’t say enough how lucky I feel to be headed in this direction.
I also got lucky when I met the man behind Brother Townsend, a music project I am now one half of. We’ve played a few gigs and have more on the way. Plans are in store to record an album this winter and I know you are all going to love the tunes. Brett writes some amazing songs. I play mandolin and rock the harmonies. I’ll share some tunes as soon as I’m able.
Lastly (and many of you already know this thanks to Facebook): I am thrilled to be included in this list of amazing poets, chosen from over 1,000 applicants to receive a $25,000 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. This gesture of generosity fills me with great hope and a new store of energy to make art that matters. Thank you to the panelists, the NEA staff and all the friends and writers who have helped, and continue to help, me along the way.