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"Quilts and Verses"

I ran across this inspiring story last week of Sarah Yerkes, and read with fascination that " . . . age hasn’t limited Sarah. When you are older, you have to adapt to a smaller universe, but you bring to that all the tools you have learned throughout your life and apply them in new and interesting ways. At a time we normally think of as winding down, Sarah’s imagination is unfolding.”


Passager Books announces the publication of Days of Blue and Flame by 101-year-old Sarah Yerkes. She investigates subjects closest to her heart—childhood, family, travel, aging, art—with, as poetry teacher Bonnie Naradzay says, “absolute clarity."

Yerkes has lived in Washington, DC since the 1940s. She has a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard and studied sculpture at the Corcoran School of Art.

After a career as a sculptor and a landscape architect, Yerkes began writing poetry at age 97. “I never fully understood how satisfying it could be to shape, build and form a piece with words rather than with wood, aluminum, stone and iron pipe,” she said.

Passager editor Kendra Kopelke says one of the things that attracted the editors to Yerkes’ work was the sense of a person redefining herself, not at 35, not at 65, but at age 100. “Sarah is a remarkable artist, hard-working, striving to write sometimes difficult poems with courage. A model for us all.”

Poet David Keplinger, winner of the 2019 UNT Rilke Award, said, “Yerkes sews a pre-nuclear America to the computer age, and she leaves space enough for our own pages, and our children’s pages, all the stories yet to come.”

© Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post At 101, Sarah Yerkes published her first book of poetry; she signed copies recently at a book party at Ingleside at Rock Creek, the senior facility where she is a resident. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

". . . the poem that perhaps best reflects Yerkes’s multi-dimensional artistic trajectory is “Quilts and Verses.” In it, she recalls a country butcher’s mother, who would hoard patches of colored cloth, saving them for patchwork quilts."

An excerpt:

Both verse and quilt need reasons to survive —

expressions of a message, a design.

Creators all will find that in them, curled

a valued insight waits to be unfurled.


Who knows where piecing fabric in our artistic quilts may eventually lead us? As we search for a hero, or hope to connect with someone who inspires our creative journey, I believe we can look to Sarah Yerkes' unfolding imagination for direction and inspiration.

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