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Food in poetry .. your favorite?


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Further Reflections on Parsley

by Ogden Nash 

 

Parsley

Is gharsley.

Heh. Then there's always this other gem by Nash, "Reflections on Ice-Breaking."

(Somewhat) more seriously, one of the best danged poems about food I've yet read is Nancy Willard's "How to Stuff A Pepper" (excerpt below):

Perched on green buttocks, the pepper sleeps.

In its silk tights, it dreams

of somersaults and parsley,

of the days when the sexes were one.

You can find the complete poem here, among other places--scroll down to the end of this page to find it. There's a couple other food-poems on this page that I'd not seen before, but which look pretty intriguing; the instructor's commentary, for this is a creative writing assignment page, are pretty interesting too, I think.

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May I suggest a re-reading of Homer's Illiad and Odyssey. I have become convinced after reading and re-reading those over the years that when Odysseus was not fighting or fornicating he and his sailors devoted most of their time to feasting.

Want to whet your appetite with poetry for roast oxen, grilled sheep, magnificent cheeses? Those are the books! Of course, be sure not to steal your cheese from anyone who happens to have only one eye. You might wind up as his breakfast!

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I'm so surprised no one has mentioned Rossetti's The Goblin Market! Okay, maybe I shouldn't be... how many folks lie around and read Victorian poetry???

It is quite long and riddled with magical food which transforms its characters. I heartily recommending reading the poem in its entirety, but to give you a tease, this is the beginning;

MORNING and evening

Maids heard the goblins cry:

"Come buy our orchard fruits,

Come buy, come buy:

Apples and quinces,

Lemons and oranges,

Plump unpecked cherries-

Melons and raspberries,

Bloom-down-cheeked peaches,

Swart-headed mulberries,

Wild free-born cranberries,

Crab-apples, dewberries,

Pine-apples, blackberries,

Apricots, strawberries--

All ripe together

In summer weather--

Morns that pass by,

Fair eves that fly;

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Thank you for the Rossetti!!!!

On a similar note, if from a much different poet, an excerpt from Galway Kinnell's "The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World" (1960), the title poem of a volume reissued by Houghton Mifflin Company in 2002:

In the pushcart market, on Sunday,

A crate of lemons discharges light like a battery.

Icicle-shaped carrots that through black soil

Wove away lie like flames in the sun.

Onions with their shirts ripped seek sunlight

On green skins.  The sun beats

On beets dirty as boulders in cowfields,

On turnips pinched and gibbous

From budging rocks, on embery sweets,

On Idahos, Long Islands and Maines,

On horseradishes still growing weeds on the flat ends,

On cabbages lying about like sea-green brains

The skulls have been shucked from,

On tomatoes, undented plum-tomatoes, alligator-skinned

Cucumbers, that float pickled

In the wooden tubs of green skim milk--

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Does Joni Mitchell count?

"Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I knew

There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too

And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses

Oh, won’t you stay

We’ll put on the day

And we’ll talk in present tenses..."

I just love all the bright, sunny color imagery in this song- always have.

Thank you for reminding me of Joni Mitchell. The only CD I have by her at the moment is "For the Roses" (which I played this morning. . .). I was astonished to see that four out of the twelve songs had food imagery in them.

She really had an eye for the glowing brightness, the sheer physicality of food.

A social critic, too, in a sense. But full of gaiety and joy also.

(The songs with poetic food imagery were "Banquet"; "Barangrill"; "Lesson in Survival"; and "Judgement of the Moon and Stars - Ludwig's Tune".)

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Blackberry

from Field Stones

by Robert Kinsley

To come down to the taste of blackberry,

on a day the color of straw late summer,

bright sun, heat rising around you,

is to know something of the beginning and

the end, whose leafy stems prick and bite,

the way years from now the needle will,

in your arm, in the vein,

in the constant flux of the blood,

the way the wind blows just now,

when you taste for a moment the sweetness

of blackberry, mixed with your own blood,

and you know with all certainty the minglings

of the world, oh such fine and delicate fruits.

An odd combination- blood and blackberries. Blackberries are my very favorite food (if I just HAD to choose) and the taste of blood is one of the most queerly replusive to me. A strange but delightful poem.

Shelley: Would you like some pie?

Gordon: MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES AND A GLASS OF WATER, SWEETHEART. MY SOCKS ARE ON FIRE.

Twin Peaks

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Challenge: What other foods have inspired poems as much as the blackberry?

NPR offered Seamus Heaney's meditation on the blackberry this summer:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4818965

Galway Kinnell writes about the relationship between eating blackberries & writing poetry in:

http://www.poemhunter.com/p/m/poem.asp?poet=9088&poem=86574

Surely there are more great inter-related poems.

P.S. Cf. Carolyn Tillie's synopsis of the contents of issues of Gastronomica for further poems.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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  • 1 month later...

Since the uproar over Jamie Oliver's televised slaughter of a lamb is a popular topic, I would like to contribute a relevant prose poem by Michael Benedikt from the Web site of The Academy of America Poets.

This is also a good way to revive a favorite thread.

I warn you, the font is quite small and text compressed, so if you have magnifying glass nearby...The Beef Epitaph

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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  • 1 year later...

Pablo Neruda's Elementary Odes.

Some bits and pieces:

From Ode to Tomatoes:

we

pour

oil,

essential

child of the olive,

onto its halved hemispheres,

pepper

adds

its fragrance,

salt, its magnetism;

it is the wedding

of the day,

parsley

hoists

its flag,

potatoes

bubble vigorously,

the aroma

of the roast

knocks

at the door,

it's time!

come on!

From Ode to an Artichoke:

The sedulous cabbage

arranges its petticoats;

:biggrin:

He sings, Neruda.

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I have always loved this verse from 'The Eve of St Agnes', by John Keats.

And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,

In blanched linen, smooth, and lavender'd,

While he forth from the closet brought a heap

Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;

With jellies soother than the creamy curd,

And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon;

Manna and dates, in argosy transferr'd

From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,

From silken Samarcand to cedar'd Lebanon.

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There's a great poem about finding cold plums in the icebox by William Carlos Williams...

That was the first thing I thought of when I saw this topic - I love that poem entitled This is Just to Say:

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably

saving

for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

Edited by dividend (log)

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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when the poetry is food...

Eating Poetry

by Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.

There is no happiness like mine.

I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.

Her eyes are sad

and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.

The light is dim.

The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,

their blond legs bum like brush.

The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.

When I get on my knees and lick her hand,

she screams.

I am a new man.

I snarl at her and bark.

I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

Edited by jeanki (log)
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when the poetry is food...

Eating Poetry

by Mark Strand

:smile:

And on a somewhat related note, the son compares writing poetry to his father's manual labor as he plants potatoes, and the hard work of his grandfather before him:

Digging by Seamus Heaney

And since the imagery reminds me of Roethke and it is that time of year: Root Cellar.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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My daughter is a poet, twice-published at age 10. She's written a couple with food themes. This first one she wrote at age 7, the others were within the past year. Enjoy.

I Am A Mouse

I am a mouse

I live in a hole,

A packet of cheese

Lies in a bowl.

I am hungry,

Do you mind?

If on your table

A mouse you'll find?

How do you think

I could give up this time

Of nibbling on cheese

And scribbling a rhyme.

-----------------------

I Want To Go

I want to go to Cuba

Ham and cheese toast for breakfast

And I’ll sit there for a

Minute or two

Doing absolutely nothing

Then

Step out through town to the

Humid papaya smelling air

To stretch my legs.

I want to go to Germany in the

Winter

The chill will work its

Way through

The deerskin coats of many

As you walk to the

Frozen lake.

-----------------------

Haiku

Trees look like little fingers

Trying to grab my

Blueberry muffin.

------------------------

(This untitled poem, while not food related, was inspired by William Carlos Williams' This Is Just To Say, and Elizabeth Murray's paining, Jazz 2001.)

I have broken

The jar

Which was

Probably an antique

For I have dropped

It onto the

Hardwood

Floor

Forgive me,

It was so wet

So glassy

So slippery.

It seemed the

Armlike handles

Yearned to

Be grabbed

And the vibrant, lusterful

Yellows and blues and magenta were welcome to the

Floor.

Edited by Majra (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

One of my favorite poems that has food in it is about a boy who eats a bug, and finds that not everybody thinks that is "okay". :smile:

The pages are illustrated with watercolor/line drawings of big flying bugs and teachers who sprout wings of their own to disabuse the boy of any idea that he should eat these things.

Bugaboo

he'd flown in solo on a runway of sun

flight pattern plotted clean

windowjamb cleared but careening

punchdrunk

he set down smackdab flat out on the desk

with a bearing

pugnacious, so

attractively mean

fate met destiny

hand met mouth

boy and bug became one

crunch and

salt slid down the boy's throat

as he wriggled

joyously bouncing with fun

children's burbling giggles unfurled like

wild horses breaking pack

to classmates, he was humorous hero but

to teacher, he was serious

flak

her thin hand trembled as it reached towards him

in fatmans belly prose

stretching gripping all

human rings fell as

caged claws did expose

a furry foot closed on his small round shoulder and while lifting him,

she flew

out the door down the hall

(was she trailing bits of goo?!)

finally at the principals office numbers were dialed a hello was heard

the briefest moment of silence stretched thin then

teachers voice it arched and purred

her crackling worry served itself up in

click clack screechy anger and words

more chitter clatter

(huge ladled disapproval with the wicked taste

of soured milk curds)

telephone was held out for the boy to take, and now it was his turn

he pressed his ear to the sticky black thing

what calming words might his mother bring?

why?

what!

when?

where!

(the usual quartet)

tell me, please NOW for your teacher is

really ugly when upset

it just tasted good mom said the little boy (his voice so strong so light)

it just tasted good

so I just took a bite!

in Columbia, they eat black ants

and golden beetles, too!

in Africa they chomp crunchy crickets

(even in Timbuktu!)

I have a book on this you see, and I say

if them, then why not me?

it just tasted good

he smiled

he turned from the phone to try to explain

teacher? it was just that it tasted good.

but her damp ancient eyes of kiln-dried onyx snapped and skewed round

and froze

and the putrid smell of dead snails reached air and marshmallow webs

extruded her nose

Not here! she clicked from loosed glittery wings Not here! her stinger

slashed gleaming and wild

then while merrily tapdancing a mad Sufi swing

she circled with red ink and the tip of her wing to contain! to corral!

this distasteful thing...

one: Ideas

two: Reviled.

she perched on the desktop to continue the lesson, extracting her words

like nectar from rose

here

we eat no sort of bugs

no sort of crawling flying things

none of those twenty-four-karat gold beetles

nor mean flying fitful fleas

no velvet leggy vibrating spiders

nor aspiring actor ants and bees!

not even glad fireflies with their illuminating screams!

no rude and yappy intense mosquitoes

or ridiculous crickets so crosseyed and cranky

nor even tipsy top-hatted grasshoppers shrieking full-blown in their Opera Extreme.

no showoff dancing centipede dainties

nor monster truck four-wheeler waterbugs with built-in hydraulically operated wings

but most of all

not me.

here your understanding will be that

Nobody makes light meals of me!

the small boy closed his smarting eyes as sounds of friends playing

rose from outside

"I'm sorry" he quivered (maintaining some pride)

the grim dimmed room it moved and shifted with a sound like a fragrant

sigh

his sneakers held hard like statues to the floor but he found some courage

and opened one eye

teacher was there in her regular clothes

no insect attachments to see

just like a Usual Human she was, no more a Fearsome Monstrosity

he knew now what he had to do what he had to say

no escape! he realized

there was to be a price to pay.

but all this time he'd been memorizing

teacher's required

small litany

so speaking loud

and speaking clear

he performed his recital for teacher's ears

maybe? them...he said...but no, not me

here, no enlightening bugs

for me

(oh but it did taste good! he smiled)

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