Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Quilted Girl

Thalia shows her face

Here is the face of Thalia (for my post-apocalyptic poem in blank verse, Thaliad, forthcoming from Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal) as conceived by Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Clearly this is a foliate girl to go with the leafy man of The Foliate Head (a collection of poems forthcoming from Stanza Press in the UK.) Go here for Clive's account of his sources. It's afternoon, and an updated image can be found: exactly here.

American quilts, family quilts

Or we might well call her The Quilted Girl.  I find it interesting that one of the sources Clive looked to was an American quilt; we have a great many books about traditional quilts, and my husband used to make (and occasionally still works on) hand-stitched quilts as a way to relax during his professional training. On arriving home, often in the middle of the night, he would stitch for fifteen minutes. Like Trollope, his quilts are proof to me that the labor of a few minutes followed steadily on a daily basis will result in a body of work. That idea, I expect, should encourage us all.

This image also reminds me of a now-framed circa 1850 quilt block my maternal grandmother (Lila Eugenia Arnold Morris) gave me when I was a child... Alas, I've forgotten the name of the pattern, but it's a complex whirl of leaves, stems, and berries.

Mike inherited several quilts, and I was lucky enough to receive some from both sides of my family. My sharecropper grandmother's quilts were much-used and often featured sacks. I wish that I had more of these... My maternal grandmother and her mother made a great variety of quilts (patchwork, crazy quilts, quilts of wool or dress cloth or velvet); I can't say that either side had much leisure, so probably the quilts are more proof that a thing done faithfully will have good results.

My mother is a grand needlewoman, and at 83 sews less but is weaving away on her 4-harness loom. I once knew how to sew and embroider, but I'm afraid that I haven't done either since I was a teen. But I've made a good many characters who know how to thread a needle along the way... In the new book, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, Lil Tattnal Tattnal is a fine seamstress, and there are others who must sew, particularly in my books set in the past.

Why Clive's Thalia fits the poem well

This Thalia is an interesting solution to the difficulty of making a cover/jacket image for a long blank verse poem that travels widely in time and space, portrays some ferocious events, and clings to the shape of the epic while moving toward the character and scenic development of the novel. Clive settles on the child and matriarch-to-be, Thalia, and he gives us an image that is startling, almost shocking (that eye!) That she is foliate reflects the intense natural world of the poem. That she is "quilted" suggests the return to knowing how to do things by hand that occurs in the narrative.  That Thalia is flowering and fruiting is also an essential property of the protagonist...


  1. Thrilled to see her at last -- and those red lips are a surprise and finishing touch, showing us Thalia as Woman as well as Girl. It's brilliant.

  2. Mmm, that's a good way to see it! And yes, Beth, it will be a beautiful book.

  3. Another lovely work. I'd better get that job so I can afford to buy all of them. On the other hand, I won't have time to read them if I do!

  4. i do love this illustration. Beautiful.

  5. Robbi,

    Yes, get that job! For all sorts of reasons...


    Glad you like Miss Thalia...

  6. Beautiful, just beautiful! I love the stories of quiltmaking in your family, and especially that your husband did it too.

  7. Yes, I wonder if we'll have one in the next generation...


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.