About the Poems
by Lily Ladewig
A couple of summers ago I spent a weekend in London with my friend Libby. We went to the Victoria & Albert Museum to see the exhibition Hats: an Anthology by Stephen Jones. There were hundreds of hats on display. Some of them were famous hats worn by celebrities and historical figures and others were examples of contemporary millinery by Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy. I fell in love with the hats, not simply as fashion accessories and art objects but because of their musical names: trilby, bowler, cloche, fascinator, etc.
I bought the catalogue for the show and a number of other books on hats and hat making and the more I learned, the more obsessed I became. Throughout history, the type of hat you wore was indicative of your status in society. Today most of us just wear hats when the weather is cold but until the 1960s, almost everyone in the U.S. wore some kind of fashionable hat year-round when they were outside. I also love the more poetic idea of the hat being on top of the head and therefore a physical manifestation of the wearer’s thoughts.
While doing this research I was also reading Cole Swensen’s The Book of a Hundred Hands which inspired me to write my own book of a hundred hats. It’s been an ongoing project that I either actively dive into (for example, spending a day at the Metropolitan Museum and writing about the hats I see in paintings) or sometimes an idea just pops into my head if I see someone wearing an interesting hat on the street or in a movie. Hats are everywhere! I also try to vary the tone of the poems so that some sound very academic while others are more personal or irreverent. So far I’m up to fifty poems.