TCS: A Hat of Wind – Poems for World Hat Day

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“Some hats can only be worn if you’re willing to be jaunty,
to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a
spring in your stride as if you’re only a step away from
dancing. They demand a lot of you.”

― Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys


Hats used to be required for most occasions for both men and women in the U.S., but in the last 50 years or so, they have become increasingly optional for everyone who doesn’t work out-of-doors, or live far to the North.  I like a good hat, and appreciate the protection from sunburn which a summer hat can provide.

So here are some poems in which hats play a part, to celebrate World Hat Day.


I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl (443)

by Emily Dickinson

I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl—
Life’s little duties do—precisely—
As the very least
Were infinite—to me—

I put new Blossoms in the Glass—
And throw the old—away—
I push a petal from my gown
That anchored there—I weigh
The time ’twill be till six o’clock
I have so much to do—
And yet—Existence—some way back—
Stopped—struck—my ticking—through—
We cannot put Ourself away
As a completed Man
Or Woman—When the Errand’s done
We came to Flesh—upon—
There may be—Miles on Miles of Nought—
Of Action—sicker far—
To simulate—is stinging work—
To cover what we are
From Science—and from Surgery—
Too Telescopic Eyes
To bear on us unshaded—
For their—sake—not for Ours—
Twould start them—
We—could tremble—
But since we got a Bomb—
And held it in our Bosom—
Nay—Hold it—it is calm—

Therefore—we do life’s labor—
Though life’s Reward—be done—
With scrupulous exactness—
To hold our Senses—on—

“I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl (443)” from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (1960 edition) – Little, Brown, and Company

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) American’s best-known woman poet and one of the nation’s greatest and most original authors, lived the life of a recluse in Amherst MA


The Love-Hat Relationship

by Aaron Belz

I have been thinking about the love-hat relationship.
It is the relationship based on love of one another’s hats.
The problem with the love-hat relationship is that it is superficial.
You don’t necessarily even know the other person.
Also it is too dependent on whether the other person
is even wearing the favored hat. We all enjoy hats,
but they’re not something to build an entire relationship on.
My advice to young people is to like hats but not love them.
Try having like-hat relationships with one another.
See if you can find something interesting about
the personality of the person whose hat you like.

“The Love-Hat Relationship” from Lovely, Raspberry, © 2010 by Aaron Belz – Persea Books

Aaron Belz (1971 – ) American writer and poet who grew up in Kirkwood, Missouri. In 2003, he founded Observable Readings, a poetry series and imprint in St. Louis. Since 2013, he has run a bicycle repair shop with his son.  Belz has published three collections of poetry: The Bird Hoverer;  Lovely, Raspberry; and Glitter Bomb.


The Tragedy of Hats

by Clarinda Harris

is that you can never see the one you’re wearing,
that no one believes the lies they tell,
that they grow to be more famous than you,
that you could die in one but you won’t be buried in it.

That we use them to create dogs
in our own image. That the dogs
in their mortarboards and baseball caps and veils
crush our hubris with their unconcern.

That Norma Desmond’s flirty cocktail hat flung aside
left a cowlick that doomed her. That two old ladies
catfighting in Hutzler’s Better Dresses both wore flowered
straw. Of my grandmother the amateur hatmaker,

this legend: that the holdup man at the Mercantile
turned to say Madam I love your hat before
he shot the teller dead who’d giggled at her
homemade velvet roses. O happy tragedy of hats!

That they make us mimic classic gestures,
inspiring pleasure first, then pity and then fear.
See how we tip them, hold them prettily against the wind
or pull them off and mop our sweaty brows

like our beloved foolish dead in photographs.
Like farmers plowing under the ancient sun.

Source: Poetry magazine

Clarinda Harris (1939 – ) was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She is a poet, professor and chair of the Towson University English Department, and an editor and director of Brickhouse Books. She is also a columnist and reviewer for the Baltimore Sun.  She has published three books of poetry: License Renewal for the Blind, The Night Parrott, and The Bone Tree.


The Death of the Hat

by Billy Collins

Once every man wore a hat.

In the ashen newsreels,
the avenues of cities
are broad rivers flowing with hats.

The ballparks swelled
with thousands of strawhats,
brims and bands,
rows of men smoking
and cheering in shirtsleeves.

Hats were the law.
They went without saying.
You noticed a man without a hat in a crowd.

You bought them from Adams or Dobbs
who branded your initials in gold
on the inside band.

Trolleys crisscrossed the city.
Steamships sailed in and out of the harbor.
Men with hats gathered on the docks.

There was a person to block your hat
and a hatcheck girl to mind it
while you had a drink
or ate a steak with peas and a baked potato.
In your office stood a hat rack.

The day the war was declared
everyone in the street was wearing a hat
and they were wearing hats
when a ship loaded with men sank in the icy sea.

My father wore one to work every day
and returned home
carrying the evening paper,
the winter chill radiating from his overcoat.

But today we go bareheaded
into the winter streets,
stand hatless on frozen platforms.

Today the mailboxes on the roadside
and the spruce trees behind the house
wear cold white hats of snow.

Mice scurry from the stone walls at night
in their thin fur hats
to eat the birdseed that has spilled.

And now my father, after a life of work,
wears a hat of earth,
and on top of that,

A lighter one of cloud and sky–a hat of wind.

“The Death of the Hat” from Sailing Alone Around the Room © 2001 by Billy Collins – Random House

Billy Collins (1941 – ) dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in the New York Times, he was a two-term U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003), and has published many poetry collections, including Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning and Nine Horses: Poems. It was Questions About Angels, published in 1991, that put him in the literary spotlight. He is a poetry consultant for Smithsonian Magazine, and says his poetry is “suburban, it’s domestic, it’s middle class, and it’s sort of unashamedly that.”


“Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!”

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!
Give back my book and take my kiss instead.
Was it my enemy or my friend I heard,
“What a big book for such a little head!”
Come, I will show you now my newest hat,
And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink!
Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.
I never again shall tell you what I think.
I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;
You will not catch me reading any more:
I shall be called a wife to pattern by;
And some day when you knock and push the door,
Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,
I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.

“Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!” from Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1956 – HarperCollins

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) was born in Maine, graduated from Vassar College in 1917, and became a well-known poet and playwright, with a strong feminist style. She was the third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1923, for The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver.


Kafka’s Hat

by Richard Brautigan

With the rain falling
surgically against the roof,
I ate a dish of ice cream
that looked like Kafka’s hat.

It was a dish of ice cream
tasting like an operating table
with the patient staring
up at the ceiling.


by Richard Brautigan

With his hat on
he’s about five inches taller
than a taxicab.

“Kafka’s Hat” and “Man” from The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, © 1989 by Richard Brautigan, Houghton Mifflin

Richard Brautigan (1935-1984) born in Tacoma, Washington. American novelist, poet, and short story writer, best known for Trout Fishing in America. Among his other works are:  A Confederate General from Big Sur; All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace; Please Plant This Book; and The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western. He once wrote, “All of us have a place in history. Mine is clouds.”


This may be the ultimate hat poem, because it inspired The Red Hat Society, an international society dedicated to reshaping the way women over 50 are viewed in today’s culture, a “playgroup for women created to connect like-minded women, make new friends and enrich lives through the power of fun and friendship!”


by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

“Warning” from Selected Poems, © 1992 by Jennifer Joseph – Bloodaxe Books

Jenny Joseph (1932-2018) was an English poet and journalist. Her best known poem, “Warning”, was written in 1961, and was identified as the UK’s “most popular post-war poem” in a 1996 poll by the BBC.  Her first book of poems, The Unlooked-for Season won a Gregory Award in 1960 and she won a 1974 Cholmondeley Award for her second collection, Rose in the Afternoon.


About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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