The poem “Sweatshop” by Martin Willitts caught my eye because it demonstrates ekphrasis, the representation of a visual through words. The poem is based on a painting by Edgar Degas entitled Women Ironing, a beautiful portrayal of a woman who is literally, ironing clothes. The poem, along with the paining, is simple, yet these works of art are important because they bring to our attention this specific woman who otherwise, would never receive recognition for the work that she does. On an even larger scale, these works cause us to think about the many people that this woman represents. I am sitting at my desk right now writing about this poem, yet never would I stop to take a look at the threads on my blue, striped shirt that a factory worker stitched for me. I would never stop to look at an ear of corn before eating it and wonder who grew it for me. The factory workers, farmers, dishwashers, seamstresses etc… keep this fast-paced world together through their hands and the manual labor that many of us forget to appreciate. I think that the speaker of Willitts’ poem embodies this idea through the description of the woman “straightening this hard life / in the claustrophobic world / when most are dreaming.” Even though many of us are constantly busy with school, work, families, and activities, it is important to remember the people behind the scenes that keep everything together for us even when we think that we have it all together. Next time I have the urge to complain, I will remember the woman who is ironing.
Check out the full poem at http://mandala.uga.edu