Friday, January 01, 2010

For the New Year: "Finishing the Hat"

The title of this post relates to two things in my life in 2010. The first is that it's the title of the first volume of Stephen Sondheim's memoir, which is the book I'm most looking forward to reading (besides those I work on, of course) in the new year. And the second is that it's one of Sondheim's most rich and gorgeous songs, about making art, the sacrifices it can require, and yet its dizzying pleasure . . . the last two lines, sung right, always make me catch my breath for a moment. Here's good wishes and inspiration to all of us looking to start, create, or finish our own hats in 2010.

Finishing the Hat
from Sunday in the Park with George
by Stephen Sondheim
(sung above by Raul Esparza)

Yes, she looks for me--good.
Let her look for me
to tell me why she left me
As I always knew she would.
I had thought she understood.
They have never understood,
And no reason that they should
But if anybody could...

Finishing the hat,
How you have to finish the hat.
How you watch the rest of the world
From a window
While you finish the hat

Mapping out a sky
What you feel like, planning a sky
What you feel when voices that come
Through the window
Until they distance and die,
Until there's nothing but sky

And how you're always turning back too late
From the grass or the stick
Or the dog or the light,
How the kind of woman willing to wait's
Not the kind that you want to find waiting
To return you to the night,
Dizzy from the height,
Coming from the hat,
Studying the hat,
Entering the world of the hat,
Reaching through the world of the hat
Like a window,
Back to this one from that

Studying a face,
Stepping back to look at a face
Leaves a little space in the way like a window,
But to see--
It's the only way to see.

And when the woman that you wanted goes,
You can say to yourself, "Well, I give what I give."
But the woman who won't wait for you knows
That, however you live,
There's a part of you always standing by,
Mapping out the sky,
Finishing a hat...
Starting on a hat...
Finishing a hat...

Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat


  1. Happy New Year Cheryl!!!!!! I hope 2010 is a wonderfully prosperous year for you!

  2. Oh, Sunday in the Park With George. Oh, Stephen Sondheim. Seeing him speak was one of the highlights of 2009 for me. Happy New Year and... to quote MY favorite song from Sunday... "just keep moving on, anything you do, let it come from you, then it will be new... give us more to see." Jenn Laughran and I missed you on our September trip but hope we can connect in 2010!

  3. Happy New Year. Since I started blogging a couple months ago, I've enjoyed reading your posts, and the comments of this community.

    I like the sincerity and beauty of this prose. I could probably appreciate it more if I had a better understanding of poetry.

  4. One of my all-time favorite Tony moments was when Lin-Manuel Miranda accepted the award for In The Heights, with a rap that included the lines "Look, Mr. Sondheim, I made a hat! Where there never was a hat! And a Latin hat at that!"

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