Monday, May 05, 2014

Kintsugi: A Poem

Image adapted from Kate, with permission, cc license
(For Anthony)

"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." -Leonard Cohen

The wheel squeaks as it spins, the platter
catching on the splash guards as I wrestle
a cold, wet lump from shapeless mass
into a symmetrical cone. It is harder
than you realize, this process of centering;
first your body, then your mind, then the clay.
The thunk, thunk, thunk of the wheel is the heartbeat
of the studio. My own heart settles into its rhythm.
I am not perfect. This is not effortless. I create
a four-pound mess. Over and over I recycle the clay,
pounding it with my frustration until my hands
find their own wisdom and a round form blooms
beneath my fingers. A tea bowl, a coffee mug,
a serving platter. Some days I spin magic. Other days,
disasters. Later, I will glaze these hard-won treasures.
If the overlapping colors craze, I will wipe the broken
surfaces with ink and watch the cracks spiderweb
across each piece, a reminder of what it means
to be beautiful, what it means to be whole.

--LJ Cohen, May 2014

A friend was struggling with acutely feeling his own brokenness the other day, and he spoke about kintsugi, the Japanese art of golden repair of broken pottery. In kintsugi, craftspeople use resin and gold dust to fix cracks in ceramics, showing and enhancing, rather than attempting to hide, the history of the piece. It is a concept that I had heard about some time ago, and it has always  resonated with me.

I wrote this for him, for myself, for all of us who feel shattered.

I think when we try to cover up our own histories is when we become truly broken - broken away from ourselves. There is a beauty in acceptance, in honoring who we are in all our glorious imperfections. 

May light find its way inside, and may it shine from you in all its brilliance.



  1. Lisa,
    I really love your post. You are really a thoughtful person...I mean you "think" and you choose your words so carefully. I like the feeling you provoked in your poem. Thanks for putting so much of how I often feel into words.

    1. Tari - thank you so much. Your words honor me.