The Food Poet: Food & poetry have certain commonalities. How do you describe the poetry of food?
It’s not a difficult thing to think that at a poetry festival, you might hear a poem that piques your interest. It’s an entirely different thing to hear something– a way of offering words to a subject of already well-tilled ground in a fresh voice that makes you beeline to the bookfair area and snatch up the sole remaining copy of that poet’s book. And so it was that I met Ewa Chrusciel, first through her reading from A Contraband of Hoopoe, published by Omnidawn and then later through sitting with her words and letting them journey inside me. I’ve read this collection several times and each reading offers new nuggets of insight. At the heart of Hoopoe is a collection exploring the immigrant experience. This focus on immigrants coming to the U.S., feels particularly pressing and timely right now, one to be kept on the front burner.
I buy a sausage at the airport before I leave Poland. Kielbaska, kielbasa,
kabanos, kabanosik. This, my transcontinental dowry. The sacrificial
baby of my tongue. Foreign gods hover over us. If God lets my sausage
in, I will eat it like a saint wreathed in incense, circle a table with
Gregorian chants. Folkberg variations. The baggage carousel spurts my
luggage out. With an air of conspiracy, I transfer this sausage from my
carry-on into checked luggage. I look around. I pray for my sausage
while I move towards customs. The Angelus trickles. The Angelus
salivates. St. George is about to put his spear through a sizzling
dragon. My luggage goes through a “sausage scan.” Can an old sausage
be born young again? The officer pulls me aside. The officer holds my
sausage to the light. His babushka trophy. “It’s a sealed sausage.” I
declare with pride. I’ve brought a new species. “But you declared: no
meats,” the officer says. “Sealed Sausage is not a meat!” Sealed sausage
is a sealed sausage!” I say, as the guardian angels of my sealed sausage
swarm under the investigation light. The officer blinks when I repeat
with determination: “A sealed sausage is a sealed sausage.” He looks
blinded. My hypnotic alliteration throws him back into the waters of
his childhood where eels jiggle Scottish dances. Oh, sweet detained
sausage. Saint of arrests, pray for us. May my new species have mercy
on us. Escape at the borders. Oh, oven bird, whose migratory song is a
sausage a sausage a sausage. Dear sausage of martyrs. Sealed patriarch.
Let the Virgin Liberty swallow it.
my dad once told me to never mess with an unripe avocado
Mark Strand passed away in November. Somehow I always expect there will be a flurry of magazine covers and articles to eulogize poets with the same kind of attention afforded to celebrities. And, perhaps that might be the case if the world resembled Brattleboro, Vermont where a stranger walked up to a poet friend of mine, delighted to have recognized him and asked for an autograph. While I didn’t know Strand personally, I owe him a great debt.
This is where you write something pithy.
This is where you tell a funny joke.
Or where you share a photo to awaken
an urge inside for just one bite.
Life comes to us, a whole pie, lattice intact.
We share one slice. We take one for ourselves.
We feast in quiet corners on the crumbs or lick
the juice pooling by the fruit so none of it is waste.
This is where I try to make you like me.
This is where I pretend it doesn’t matter if you don’t.
This is where I tease you with something sturdy
like oats, wickedly bathed in oil and simple
syrup, hazelnuts knocking into chocolate chunks.
And I take out one bowl for you and I take out
one bowl for me that we might sit in the silence
of our thoughts, knowing all we can do is feed
the need to be known even if we appear
as composite photos of our actual selves online.
This summer has been full of coffee. Iced coffee. Head back to the previous post (and nab the Spicy Sweet Tea Glazed Chicken recipe) to learn why. I’m a passionate tea drinker but I can drink down a cup of coffee with the best of them. I’m an equal opportunity caffeineist. Initially, I had wanted to share this poem, “metamorphosis” with you in June, where the poem starts, but life got in the way and I’m glad it did. Jonathan Pacic’s affinity for coffee goes deeply enough that he has written a whole series of coffee poetry, two of which he has kindly let me share here. If you haven’t read his poem “Confessions of a Coffee Snob #3” then head there first. We will wait for you before starting the metamorphosis. The “#3” is what gets me most about that poem. Tea snobs, coffee snobs, and even macaron snobs can relate to the idea that something worth caring about is worth writing about several times over.
Segments of an Orange
How can I rest?
How can I be content
when there is still
that odor in the world?
— Louise Gluck
Breakfast is on the brain. Last week’s food poetry morsel included a plate of scrambled eggs that would have been perfect for Sun-Tzu, served up by poet Roy Mash. For many, the beginning of a day would be less welcome without a cup of coffee in hand. Even though I veer toward tea nine times out of ten, sometimes, a roasted cup of strong black coffee or sweetened and served with milk is downright glorious. Poet Jonathan Pacic shares his poem, “Confessions of a Coffee Snob #3 – Labels,” part of a series he has written on his ruminations while caffeinating. Enjoy the buzz.
In a crowded East Bay kitchen, I met Roy Mash as we sipped sparkling water before the start of a poetry reading. We began talking about the intersections between food and poetry and he mentioned he had written a bit of food poetry, especially one about eggs. Intrigued, I proceeded to devour the food poem shortly after it hit my inbox. So, with Mash’s permission, I give you, “A Plate of Scrambled Eggs.” Next time you are whisking eggs to scramble, it might make you look at breakfast differently.
Words can stick like dried honey to a countertop, catching any stray bit of paper towel. They can swirl and fuse into a person like stirring a spoonful of honey from a jar into a hot mug of tea. Sometimes we can be so carefree with our words, forgetting this quality they possess that rivals the handiwork of honeybees. Sometimes, we linger on words spoken a long time ago, letting them marinate within us that our response might tenderize until the right time.