Poetry News

Corduroy's poet laureate

By Harriet Staff

When Emily Gordon takes the stage tonight in New York at the "Grandest Meeting" of the Corduroy Appreciation Club, she'll be wearing a corduroy hat, pin, skirt, and high heels -- exceeding the club's required three item minimum. Then, in her official function as the Poet Laureate of Corduroy (yes, you read that correctly), she'll read a poem dedicated to the distinctively waled cloth.

It might be hard to top the sestina (called "The Fabric of Democracy") that she wrote for the annual gathering a few years ago, but when we spoke this afternoon she seemed confident -- even though she still needed to compose two stanzas before the evening event: "I thought I was done," she said, "but then I realized that it only had nine. And it really needs eleven." Why eleven? Because the number eleven looks like the lines on corduroys. And because the Grand Meeting was specially scheduled on 11/11/11 in honor of that fact.

Gordon, who received her MFA at NYU and writes non-corduroy related poetry too, likes the challenge of writing quickly, with formal constraints, and on a focused topic -- like, for instance, corduroy, a fabric she's loved since her 1970s childhood. "You know, 'Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room'," she said, quoting the Wordsworth poem. "I think sonnet writers do fret in their narrow room. But in a good way."

Gordon wouldn't reveal the poem she'll read tonight, but she dropped a few hints. Each four line stanza will end with the phrase, "strum the cord." And she thinks it might raise some eyebrows: "It's more suggestive than erotic, but..." She said the poem was inspired by the touchiness of the annual corduroy gathering. While  each year there are historical lectures, keynote speakers (this year's will be Amy Sedaris), and an array of corduroy-like food (Ruffles potato chips, celery), mostly the gathering is just a lot of people "coming up and touching each other's sleeves with admiration and affection. And that's what the poem is about, with a little extra intimacy."

Originally Published: November 11th, 2011