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Eating Poetry

January 2016

This month we were considering poetry as food; poetry as something you take in on a daily basis and that sustains you. Some of it good and solid and healthy, and sometimes light and sweet, or heavy and probably not the best thing to have at that time.

There are many poems about food, but that is not what we are dealing with in this prompt. There are also some well known poems about eating poetry.

One that is often anthologized and used in schools is "How To Eat a Poem" by Eve Merriam.

Don't be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that
may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.
You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.
For there is no core
or stem
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away.

Also well known is "Eating Poetry" by Mark Strand, which appeared on this year's National Poetry Month poster and begins:    

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry...

But what I am more interested in for this month's prompt is what Galway Kinnell does in his poem "Blackberry Eating."

Maybe the Galway Hospital triggered the Kinnell connection, but in his poem we have him first being quite literal in his eating -

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making;

- and then something else happens. The blackberries, with their "black art" become words, if not poems.

and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry-eating in late September.

The prompt this month is poetry as food - poems that explore how we consume poetry, what it gives us, and may or may not contain references to actual foods.

With holidays and such at year's end, I'm sure you will have more than enough foods prompting you.

Read and listen to Kinnell read "Blackberry Eating"

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


So my friend Bob asks me how the poetry's going.
Bob who doesn't write poetry but is good with people
and good at asking you questions about yourself
and saying your name after every sentence, like a refrain,
and looking you in the eye while you look at his shoes.
And he's good at making money. If you ask him how
he's doing, he says he's doing excellent. He's that kind
of annoying. So he asks me how the poetry's going
and I tell him good, excellent. I tell him I got one in Poetry,
a real coup, and one in the Missouri Review and two
in Shenandoah. Plus a whole bunch more I haven't sold
that I'm sending out again. He raises an eyebrow, winces,
says to hear me talk you'd think the poem was a commodity,
like copper or timber, like coffee or soy beans or pork bellies.
And I look down at his beautiful shoes, because it's the truth.

Paul Hostovsky


With Care –
Your music is hidden within my palatable animism
Unfairly and difficultly it is for my savorous spirituality
To see you so closely
Wanting to eat you word by word
And for a moment I know you are for me to taste
For a moment –
Then my dreams dissolve into savorless reality
My spiritual force returns from flavorful reflections
And muted thoughts are carefully levied and regorged
For Deaths collective regurgitations

A.Q. Pancho


an empty house
1 legal size pad
1 special pen from which ink flows nicely
3 pencils you rarely have to sharpen
1 metaphor that fits the poem’s theme
1 alliteration that aligns to a first draft

a glance at the storm outside
1 glimpse in Roget’s thesaurus for the perfect word
1 word in a different language that has an identical meaning
3 punctuation marks testing your grammar knowledge

a short nap
1 meaningful critique from a newbie in your writing group
10 clichés you removed

the sound of a shovel scraping your walkway, that neighbor who gossips
to the other neighbor in earshot “She’s that crazy poet”
4 critiques you needed to throw those poems on the DO NOT PUBLISH pile
1 teacher who made you feel your whole worth

one pair of loose flannel pajamas
2 poems you can read aloud without tears
1 published author gives your prose-poetry a blessing

several cups of lady grey Twinning’s tea with organic honey
12 additional edits to rid all the “its” and “likes”
6 ounces of courage to submit

eight in rhythm clanks from the Victorian radiator
1 toss of your collection could end all this angst

the Bach Magnificat playing full blast to make your windows vibrate
1 last trim

Yield: Winter Stew feeds a crowd.

Lisa Salerno Honecker


We don’t come here to overeat or eavesdrop
jabber from the next table, or tetchy jokes
from the bar. An overhead fan stirs light
in a pool of common air lofting toward ceiling.
The stirred light is a herald. We’re waiting
for our pizza, sipping lager from glass mugs,
making it last. I’m waiting for words
I can almost taste, a valley of black olives,
garden snippets of peppers green and red,
white onions with a bite, crunchy in spite of
the great hot cave of oven where disparate things
come together across borders to meld with
cheese. We come here after the readings, words
still savory in my mind. Someone’s poem
about shadows attached to our feet, holding us
so we don’t fly away yet; a song of morning
glory trumpeting from a fence. They come
together. Words and images to share like
pizza; we take home leftovers. I can taste them.

Taylor Graham


My insatiable appetite anticipates
the flavour is slow to savour
this tender morsel penned
beneath the gaze of ravenous eyes

scraping its surface
I inhale deep and salivate
such is the pleasure taken
from destined devouring

it's pulpy scent
enticing me to sink my teeth
and rip into flesh
to make these juices run - rare -

yes, a bloody delectable feast!

Succulent words
broil beneath the flame
of this - my consuming

Deena Perreault


She places the poem on her tongue
a chocolate liqueur perhaps, or a mulberry.
Something whole in itself.

There's a pause before
the sweet sour bitters
seep their story
down her throat
deep into bone

There, they’re already known.

Deb Joffe


A little poetry is good for me,
It speeds digestion, dilates the capillaries,
And rouses me at daybreak
For honest work--
Not earning a dreary buck,
Like some apprentice zombie;
But for the real work
Of collapsing dreams into words,
Even if it’s mostly twitching the delete button
In an endless SOS.

But too much of the stuff,
And there’s a predictable churning in my gut,
An aching to spew the bitter acid
Eating my insides;

Which is why my wife monitors my intake,
Allowing only so much a day, and never after lunch.
Otherwise, I’m restless all night,
Keeping her awake,
With my staring at the ceiling,
Listening to the crickets’ SOS.

Ron Yazinski


Too much, too fast, too heavy,
too dark and sour, and yet I keep eating.
It is said that it is comfort,
but no more than a drug.
Misery company in bag, bottle or book.
Consumed to the point of nausea,
so that I welcome the purging
and the reminders left before me
that I wash away drop by drop
before falling into a sleep
heavy with words.

Pamela Milne


plum wine spills on
linen tablecloth
strange purple bird

mesclun greens glisten
under crenshaw melon
smattering of blueberries

array of cheeses
blue sharp pale
figs ripe to perfection

tomato bisque
crème fraîche
sprig of parsley

lemon souffle
cools on the window sill
daydreaming again

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello


Poetry as a comestible,
like broccoli, potatoes,
or key lime pie?

A daily dose to keep
the blues at bay,
give an instant high?

Easy to digest, pleasing
to the pallet, for tastes
varied and wide?

(No peanuts, please!
No menudo! No wheat!
Be polite! Don’t burp!)

I’d as soon sit below
the salt, dine with beggars,
drink and lie

Than eat with dainty
fingers, pick and sip,
and surely die.

Robert Carroll Miller


In pasta fine as angels hair
a map to a hill called
In brittle scales of ancient Cod
Valhalla’s trail and Odin's
proverbs on my plate.
In thin white gravy corns
of pepper swim in Krishna’s
perfect world.
Then on my nightstand whiskey
spills when I lean to hear Amazing
Grace sung lowly in her
dreaming voice
so I lie back down and search
my dreams
for a sliver of light
and the righteous path
that leads to Dharma.

Gregory Galbraith


I ate a hot Howl for lunch today
but what’ll I have for dinner?
I know! The Hollow Men, flambé,
so tasty and such a winner!

Last Friday night ‘twas Ariel
but horsemeat’s not very tender.
So I washed it down with some Bukowski
now from that night zilch I remember…

For dessert, there’ll be some of Williams’ plums
from the icebox, so cold and sweet
and when Poe’s Raven finally comes
she’ll be one lovely dark-roasted treat!

Gluck has written of cottonmouths
I don’t think I’d like to eat ‘em.
But if Baudelaire should bring beaujolais
you can bet I’ll be there to greet ‘im!

R. Bremner