“I think what poetry finally does is to help us experience our world as intensely as possible.” (Mark Strand)
Have I mentioned just how much I love this year’s National Poetry Month poster?
Featuring the first stanza of Mark Strand’s “Eating Poetry” cleverly drawn by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, it’s the poster to top all posters. Period.
As we gear up for the official start of Poetry Month next week, we simply must don our finest bibs, polish our knives and forks, and wholeheartedly nosh on Strand’s delectable words. As he once said, “The reader has to sort of give himself over to the poem and allow the poem to inhabit him.” Ladies and Gentlemen, lick your chops!
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 burn 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,
I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.
~ from Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, 1980)
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Clean, precise, surreal. Vintage Strand. A good poem produces a visceral reaction in the reader. As we internalize it, it may momentarily dally with our intellect, but ultimately it taps into our emotional core and arouses our instinctual essence, raw and animalistic. A good poem is a transformative experience.
“Eating Poetry,” along with “Pot Roast,” are my two favorite Strand poems. I am sad we lost him last year to cancer. Have you read his good friend Charles Simic’s wonderful remembrance, “Living Gorgeously,” from The New York Times Review of Books? I love how Strand and Simic were always thinking up money-making schemes — like importing foreign wines or opening a restaurant where the waiters were well-known poets. But best of all is this:
One wild notion of ours actually bore fruit. We started a new poetry movement that we hoped would make us famous. Every other poet was starting one forty years ago, so we thought, Why not us? Ours was to be called Gastronomic Poetry. Both Mark and I had noticed at poetry readings that whenever food was mentioned in a poem—and that didn’t happen very often—blissful smiles would break out on the faces of people in the audience. Thus, we reasoned, in a country where most people hate poetry and everyone is eating and snacking constantly, poems ought to mention food more frequently. To fix that deplorable omission, we thought we’d include one or more mouth-watering dishes in every poem we wrote, no matter what its subject was. Literary purists were bound to be shocked finding barbecued ribs or a slice of apple pie in some sublime poem of ours, but those millions of Americans who buy gourmet magazines and cookbooks and dream of eating the gorgeously prepared meals described in their pages, without ever bothering to make them themselves, would rush to buy our books and enjoy them in the same way.
We talked about how writing a poem is no different from taking out a frying pan and concocting a dish out of the ingredients available in the house, how in poetry, as in cooking, it’s all a matter of subtle little touches that come from long experience or are the result of sudden inspiration . . . We were just a couple of short-order cooks who kept trying to pass themselves off as poets.
Reading “Eating Poetry” made Mr. Cornelius very hungry. Clever bear that he is, he found a way to actually eat the poem.
First, he made a bear-sized version of the poster, cropping some of Chast’s art so the images were perfect squares.
Then he sent his picture to the Boomfa-Loompas in London so they could magically transform it into marshmallowy goodness.
Finally, he invited some rabbity friends to help eat the poem. They all agreed it was so tasty, they would eat as many poems as possible in April . . . and every day after that.
There is no happiness like theirs, something that could easily be yours, too. Poems are good food. 🙂
Get your free poster here.
Happy Almost Poetry Month!
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JULIE PAPRIKA GIVEAWAY WINNER
Well, we had another near fiasco on our hands trying to pick a winner. Monsieur Random Integer Generator, whom I’ve always described as “ever reliable,” had to be coaxed away from his Spring Break hideaway on the island of Maui. Mr. Cornelius finally made contact with him telepathically, explaining that we needed the name of just one beautiful commenter, one lucky person to win a Julie Paprika archival print.
M. Generator perked up just hearing the name “Julie Paprika,” wanting to know who she was, where she lived, and whether she was available to spice up his life. When he saw all the exquisite paintings at the shop, he selfishly wished he could pick his own name — but alas, not being able to decide on a favorite print (for they were all equally amazing), he decided it best to randomly pick a winner after all.
After eating a big slice of pie and three red apples, he rode atop the yellow elephant, balanced on the tortoise’s back, galloped with the red pony and officially became a member of the Acrobaticats before closing his eyes and pointing to:
*drum roll please*
KERI COLLINS LEWIS!
Woo Hoo! Hooray! Backflips! Somersaults!
Can’t wait to see which print you choose :). Please send me your snail mail address so we can dispatch your print straightaway.
Thanks everyone for entering. I second and third all your praise for Julie’s work!
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♥ 2015 NATIONAL POETRY MONTH KIDLITOSPHERE EVENTS ROUNDUP ♥
Don’t forget to send me your links and info if you want to be included in the Roundup! Please email me: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. I’ll be updating the Roundup throughout the month of April. Please also help to spread the word. Thanks!
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The lovely and talented Jone MacCulloch is hosting today’s Roundup at Check It Out. Hop over there and check out the full menu of poetic treats being shared in the blogosphere this week.
Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.