I must say it again: no other contemporary poet can touch Diane Lockward when it comes to food poems.
Sassy and sensual, this witty, playful temptress handles words like a master chef might gently caress juicy, blushing peaches right before setting them aflame with heartbreak and humor. I know when I read one of Diane’s poems my senses will be fully engaged and I’ll be surprised at where she takes me, inevitably enlightened by the emotional tune-up. She’s accessible, instinctual, and fearless! Whoever coined the phrase, “a feast of words,” must have had Diane in mind. She seems to perform her “high-wire acts of language and imagination” with the greatest of ease, titillating the reader without a safety net.
Recently, Diane released a new e-chapbook called Twelve for the Record, which contains 12 of her most requested poems, four from each of her print collections (Eve’s Red Dress, What Feeds Us, Temptation by Water). I purchased Twelve for the Record as soon as it was available, even though I already own all her other books. You just never know when you’ll get a sudden craving for an exquisitely crafted poem that gleams and glistens; it’s nice having a few choice nuggets in your back pocket.
Today I’m happy to share one of the poems from Twelve for the Record which was also included in What Feeds Us (Wind Publications, 2006). You must read it aloud! While not primarily about food, you’ll still want to eat every word. It’s interesting how we crave the naughty connotation, secretly relishing the opportunity to get away with a little harmless mischief. I am reminded of how powerful words are, how truly delicious the English language is. Take these words into your mouth, roll them around on your tongue, savor their sounds and textures. Delight in diction: taste but do not swallow.
THE BEST WORDS
by Diane Lockward
The ones that sound obscene but aren’t,
that put a finger to the flame but don’t burn.
Words like asinine, poppycock, titmouse, tit for tat,
woodpecker, pecorino, poop deck, and beaver.
In tenth grade Mr. Mungonest, my English teacher,
called Barney Feeley a young dastard and silenced
the room. Dastard! I was seduced by words that flirt
with danger but don’t end up in bed. The threat
of Shylock’s If you prick us, do we not bleed?
And fructify — I wanted to conjugate
that sinuous verb, like Proteus, changing its form,
oozing into fructuous, assuming the official ring
of fructification, advocating like a president’s wife
for the Fructification of America.
Wild words that shake their hips, thrust out their genitalia,
and say, Feast on this. Sexagesima — my God!
what a word for the second Sunday before Lent.
Sextuplicate, the versatility of it — noun, verb, adjective –
always occurring six times. And on the equator, positioned
just south of the Sickle of Leo, the constellation Sextans.
My twelfth grade English teacher was Mrs. Cox.
We could not get enough of her name. We raised
our hands and called, Mrs. Cox, Mrs. Cox, choose me!
until we drove her out of school swearing
to become a secretary or a nun, but not until we’d fallen
in love with Edmund the Bastard.
Cockatiel, cockatoo — words with wings.
The hoarfrost of winter, lure of a crappie,
handful of nuts, kumquat, lavender crystals of kunzite,
the titillation of shiftless and schist, the bark and bite
of shittimwood, music of sextillion and cockleshells.
And always somewhere in the distance, Jerry Lee Lewis,
blond curls flapping, groin pumping, fingers pounding
the keyboard, his throat belting out Great balls of fire! –
words like fat radishes burning my tongue.
~Posted by permission, Copyright © 2006 Diane Lockward (What Feeds Us, Wind Publications).
See what I mean? The best words from one of our best poets!
For those unfamiliar with Diane’s poetry, Twelve for the Record is the perfect introductory sampler. At only $2.99 per download, it’s also a very affordable and convenient resource for poetry students. It includes an essay describing the inspiration for all the poems, as well as a history of where they’ve been previously published, in print and online (Harvard Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Daily, Writer’s Almanac, etc).
Once you own this one, you’ll be all set to go forth and fructify. Don’t miss it!
♥ For more about Diane Lockward and her work, visit her official website and fabulous blog, Blogalicious. She’s one of the most generous poets around, often spotlighting other poets and offering a wealth of great practical tips and resources, like this updated list of Print Journals That Accept Online Submissions.
♥ I love this podcast interview conducted by Dave Bonta at via Negativa. Several of Diane’s poems are read aloud and there is great discussion about how she transitioned from teaching to the life of a poet. She also reveals why she thinks she writes so often about food — and it’s not because her husband is a restaurant manager!
♥ Here’s a recent Poetry Month interview at Wendy’s Muse, which includes another poem from Twelve for the Record, “Pastiche for a Daughter’s Absence.”
♥ Other Diane poems featured at Alphabet Soup:
- “Eve’s Confession”
- “I’m Lonely as the Letter X”
- “If Only Humpty Dumpty Had Been a Cookie”
- “No Soup for You!”
- “Heart on the Unemployment Line”
♥ Special message for Diane from Humpty Dumpty:
Proud Grandmother and Poet Extraordinaire Elaine Magliaro, she of the delectable Almond Gateaux, is today’s Poetry Friday host at Wild Rose Reader. Saunter over and sample the tasty poetry and reviews being served up in the blogosphere this week.
BTW, what is your favorite “best word?” I’m quite fond of penal myself ☺.
Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.