Breaking Dishes

Photos by Jamie Clifford
Photos by Jamie Clifford

20131111_002 20131111_003 20131111_004 20131111_005 20131111_006 20131111_007 20131111_008 20131111_009 20131111_010 20131111_011 20131111_012

I’ve been working with the idea of breaking–breaking open and into multiples. I’ve been trying to learn what it means to let go—to release energy to create synergy. With the help of my son JJ, and great friends Gabi Morales and Jamie Clifford we’ve been breaking plates, eggs, and sky–wide open.  Jamie helped us document the breaking.

Jamie is an amazing photographer; she is gifted at capturing the energy of a person. Her photos pull the internal to the surface. Or rather, she breaks the surface to release the light in a person. There is no hiding with a Jamie Clifford portrait.

Recently, I wrote a short essay for The Beloit Poetry Journal about this obsession with breaking.  It would mean a great deal to me if you would consider reading and respond to this little piece of writing; I would love to hear about the dishes you have broken–what this breaking released. You can find the essay and a place to post your comments here: 

I also have a poem to read and hear at BPJ if you are feeling extremely generous with your reading time:

It turns out plate breaking is a rather human phenomenon; below is some plate-breaking info I lifted from the great Oracle of Google:

Finnish – At some Finnish weddings a plate breaking tradition is performed. During the bridal waltz the bride’s mother-in-law places a china plate on top of her head. When the plate falls, the broken china represents the number of children the couple can expect to have. (from

German – The plate-breaking traditions of Polterabend, roughly translates as “ghost evening”. The evening before the wedding, the guests go to the house of the bride, bringing plates, dishes, coffee/tea cups, and proceed to smash them at the door before entering. The pieces are supposed to each bring good luck. After smashing the plates, you are invited in for coffee and cake! (from:

Jewish – In European shtetls, tenaim (conditions) was a formal engagement ceremony at which parents of the girl and parents of the boy agreed to betroth their two children. During the celebration, a contract was signed, witnessed and read to the assemblage. The contract included a proviso that the party who breaks the agreement before the wedding (p’tui, p’tui) must pay a stiff fine to the injured party. To seal the bargain, the future mothers-in-law smashed a dish. Some authorities say this symbolizes the impending breaks in their relationships with their children while recognizing that a new family is created — a family with lives of their own who now are responsible for taking care of and feeding each other. The Gaon also weighed in on tenaim plates and demanded they be ceramic, since “just as a ceramic plate cannot be repaired, so the families should be warned not to renege on their commitments.” (Word has it that unmarried women will trample over one another for a piece of the broken crockery, because it’s considered a talisman that leads to romance and chuppah. Could be….) (from The Jewish Journal)

Czech – At the Czech wedding reception, a plate is broken at the feet of the bride and groom and they must clean the pieces up together to promote the ability to work together in a healthy manner throughout their marriage. (from Moravianweddings)

Greek – Usually, breaking plates in praise of a musician or dancer is considered a part of “kefi” – the irrepressible expression of emotion and joy. A plate might also be broken when two lovers parted, so that they would be able to recognize each other by matching the two halves even if many years passed before they met again. Small split versions of the mysterious Phaistos disk are used by modern Greek jewelers this way, with one half kept and worn by each of the couple. Breaking plates is also an act which implies abundance – “We have so many plates we can break them!” – similar to lighting a fire with a piece of paper money. (from Greece Travel)