The cup warms and holds heat.
Foam like the milky way caught on time lapse.
The inner porcelain white, the outer blue
like a planet coming into focus.
~ from 'A Small Thing' by Caitlin Maling
I first tried approaching the object poem through thinking about what objects have resonance in my life, the things that hold history and emotion greater than their actual parts. For me this ended up being about which objects embodied particular relationships, from small things like my wedding ring and old toys to larger objects like the crayfish pots and fishing boats that tie me to my family. Often they were objects people had given me, not objects I had chosen for myself. I tried writing a series of different poems from this perspective but none of them really seemed to stick.
I write every day in the same way, with coffee in a café. One morning I stopped trying to write about a great object and focused on one of the objects I encounter in my daily life–my coffee cup. I was drawn to how interacting with the cup on a daily basis made it a blank canvas for whatever was happening for me that day. I was also struck by how the cup represented a distinct and personal experience for me but one that was also occurring in different ways for everyone around me. The cup then became a vessel for thinking obliquely about how we form attachments to objects and to people and how ephemeral these connections are.
Whenever I try to write I as drawn to subjects I am truly ambivalent about, for which I felt competing and oppositional emotions. The cup allowed me to embody ambivalence over the idea of attachment. The key metaphors and images in the poem of different scales of physicality (from the cup to the universe) were ways of representing and interrogating ideas of what we choose to focus on and the effect that focus has.
Caitlin Maling is a Western Australian poet whose first book Conversations I've Never Had was published in early 2015 followed by Border Crossing in 2017 with Fremantle Press. Her work has appeared widely throughout Australia and the US... read more »
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Red Room Poetry Object is a poetry writing competition inviting young writers and their teachers from across Australia and New Zealand to submit poems about 'talismanic' objects that are special to them. Red Room Poetry Object is open to students in grades 3-10 and their teachers. In 2015, Red Room Poetry Object linked over 160 school communities and published 2560 student and teacher poems.