As a child, I savored every scholastic opportunity to build a diorama. Shoeboxes, construction paper, rubber cement, and popsicle sticks were involved. I crafted dollhouses, boxcar scenes, even a Victorian parlor. And (since my inner schoolkid is never too far removed), I hope to one day delight in helping my own children create their own dioramas. Karen Craigo captures the timelessness of this tactile joy in her poem, "Weather Diorama," which was originally featured in the first issue of Bear Review.
In the poem, the speaker's son is tasked with creating "a diorama / of a barometer." As the speaker laments the difficulty of the assignment, Craigo toys with the idea of pressure, which creates its own layer of poetic tension that is continued throughout: "Find a way / to showcase / pressure." The textural details of the poem really make it; each time I read the lines, I smile at the homework-motivated creativity: "tennis balls / as hail," "tinsel hangs / like rain," and a tornado depicted by "twisted / sock, tiny toy / cows set flying."
It's this universality of homework tradition that's brought home by the closing lines of the poem. Even as the speaker and son struggle with ideas for his particular assignment, they return to what seems to be a comfortingly standard diorama trope: "At any rate / we've painted it / blue and there / are the requisite / cotton balls / representing clouds." Craigo uses that word—"requisite"—as a wink, to say, isn't this where we always begin when we don't know where to begin?
I was delighted to spend time with this poem, and the childhood memories it conjured for me. May it continue to inspire dioramas for generations to come.
–– Barbara Varanka