a detail of a doll created by Morton Bartlett
After a nice long hiatus of adjusting and appreciating my new life in Chicago, with one semester at The School of the Art Institute under my garter belts, here I am revisiting my room as a poet. One of my classes was a study of the Archive — the creativity and passion that exists in research. I was shelving books at the school library and a book threw itself off the shelf into my arms … well, onto my book truck … but still … amazing. The book was called Family Found by Marion Harris.
In this moment, I met Morton Bartlett.
In all my years, my whole life really, with this penchant for the petrie dish that is the world of dolls, I never found Morton Bartlett. I had never heard the name. Never knew one thing until this fast little moment during a Wednesday night shelving shift at my school library. And as these things usually happen … I needed this to happen.
At that moment, I was suffering another long bout of crying in public. Not the best thing to be doing, by the way, on a crowded subway at rush hour feeling the belt buckles of strangers in my back, on my hip, hands holding on all around me as if we were worshiping something. But, it happens to me. I have accepted my melancholia, my anhedonia again. I had to do it again, staring it all in the face when I made the move to a new city, returning to a school of very intense study, the love of my life being responsible in Michigan … I was completely alone. Alone. That word. That word again. Alone. In those first several months here it seemed even my cats were sick of me sleeping all day, staying up all night and staying out all night. I was searching in any way I knew how for something that would be keep me intact Monday through Friday, till I saw my Love on the city street waving to me with purpose in his step, purpose that was all for me. To see me.
Then Alone was gone.
But Sunday night, it returned after my love left for Michigan. And that still happens. It is still gut-wrenching to see him leave every week. I tell myself it is for the greater good of our future … me to finally be able to write as a career in the art world.
Then, I found Morton. Or, he found me.
Morton Bartlett was a orphan who grew up to become an eccentric bachelor who never left his native Boston. He had no one. He acknowledged this and I would love to know which midnight in the 1930s that moment occurred. So, he created a family for himself. A family of dolls. Bartlett was an untrained artist, attending Harvard for a stint before reality forced him to take odd jobs in the Boston area. Untrained, but blessed with a gift, the gift of touch and hands and keen eyes.
So when my Archive project began, it began as a study of doll collectors. It became the beginnings of a chapbook about Bartlett. I am tentatively calling the collection, Doll Work and hope it will be complete sometime this spring and definitely by summer.
The catalyst poem has become, “The Lonely Bachelor” and begins,
Your room is small and warm like socks.
There should have been an invitation to a party
in your mailbox today, sitting there in wait
so that you could have the power
to throw it away.
My identification with him was unreal. The loneliness, the search, the creation. I hadn’t felt anything like this since discovering Hans Bellmer when I was working on my Masters in poetry. And even this was different. Stronger. Lovelier. Quieter.
My overall plan for the book is to also incorportate my poems on children’s author, Dare Wright, who never left her doll, Edith out of her sight throughout her life. But, they may need to be separate collections … this will work itself out.
This is where faith comes from for me. Love and Poetry … that constant striving for fulfillment only Art can give.
I search for you now among my own obsessive piles,
desiring something lovely at noon and at 5:00.
Go to http://www.carriemcgath.com for more news and work and updates on Doll Work.