I know, I can’t quite believe it either. After more than a year of building/writing/sewing, and more than a year before that conceptualizing, I’m finally finished my third and final Tin Drum-inspired poem doll, Oskar.
As the unreliable narrator of the book, I should have known Oskar would be the hardest to pin down. When I first started thinking about this project overall, I originally thought of creating Oskar as someone who was shedding his own skin. But, seeing as how he wills himself to stop growing at the age of three, I ultimately decided to use growth and memory as the inspiration for my structure.
I’ve tried to make the physical experience of reading each poem doll mirror an aspect of the doll’s character, and also somewhat intrusive — as each poem touches on private, uncomfortable moments of their lives. You must lift Anna’s skirt, or unzip Agnes’s dress — in Oskar’s case, the reader must unbutton his suspenders to read his poem.
When you do, Oskar expands to reveal a poem written and sketched on shrinky dink material. I have always been intrigued by the idea of scrimshaw, and the shrinky dink material resembles it so well once it’s baked. I wrote a poem about the lies etched in Oskar’s memory and his bones…and the truths he will cling to as he allows himself to grow.
This was a challenging project, one that forced me to work with new shapes and materials, new tools — the dreaded stabby curved needle, for instance. And rightly so, as Oskar’s character challenges anyone who reads him. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of this family of characters…but for now, I will rest my needle (and tired fingers) for a bit.