We are always eating
or about to, or just done.
We are hungry, we are sated,
we are wishing we hadn’t.
We are making up for it,
or planning our denials,
or confessing them.
~ from “Dieting” by Julia Wendell
I’m pleased today to welcome Maryland poet Julia Wendell, who’s as passionate about words as she is about horses. With a life marked by such difficult personal challenges as anorexia and alcohol addiction, it seems riding and writing have been her saving graces.
The 29 poems in her new chapbook Take This Spoon are presented in seven sections, each leading off with a favorite family recipe to whet the reader’s appetite. As she says in her poem “Dieting,” we spend much of our time obsessing about food. Some are addicted to eating, while others are addicted to not eating. Better to take a lesson from animals:
Self-consciousness doesn’t ruin
their appetite or enjoyment.
They don’t judge what they consume,
or long for what they won’t allow themselves.
They don’t confuse who they are
with what they eat,
fearing they won’t be loved
if they’re fat, or don’t cook,
or overcook, or nearly kill themselves
by making up for their gluttony
Julia explores the complicated relationship humans have with food by fixing a personal lens on her own family. In artfully crafted scenes, (a mother keeping her daughter out of the kitchen so she won’t see her drinking, a young woman bringing home a bohemian boyfriend to dinner at her mother’s “immaculate table,” a woman aching for her deceased mother as she comes across her handwriting on recipe cards), the subtexts of pain, regret, loss, and contention are plated to perfection. Her descriptions of food are lyrical and sensual, her voice intimate and honest, her ability to align what is being eaten with what eats away at the heart and soul is powerful.
Since so many of you enjoyed Julia’s poem, “My Mother’s Handwriting,” I know you’ll find her thoughts about writing, familial relationships, and the love of horses interesting.
Naturally, I asked her to share a recipe. Peanut Butter Pie, anyone? :)
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