friday feast: diane wakoski’s “parkin” (+ a recipe)

Happy Halloween!

No tricks here today, just a rich, spicy, scrumptious treat — parkin!

I was compelled to bake a batch of this Yorkshire gingerbread after reading Diane Wakoski’s evocative, affecting poem.

Her musings about the Brontës brought back my own fond memories of visiting Haworth – absolutely fascinating how creative genius can flourish in such a carefully circumscribed, isolated world.

Sip a cup of hot tea, have a good bite of parkin, and find comfort in the words of this generous poet. The “small things” are not so small after all.

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friday feast: diane wakoski’s “breakfast”

“The invention of food as ‘food’ — the ‘loved object’ — is the imagination’s attempt to (re)create the act of eating as, not passive, not infantile, but active, ‘adult.’ The instinctive physical act is appropriated by the conscious self, made into a kind of artwork. A kind of poetry.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

photo by Twenty_Fingers

I’m so glad you’re here! Please make yourself comfortable, have a cup of Earl Grey tea, and gently enter the world of Diane Wakoski’s “Breakfast.” The table is set with an array of beautiful, lovingly crafted images, each lyrical moment turning a simple meal into soul-nourishing art. So this is how it feels to own the morning!

photo by cleliamus

by Diane Wakoski

In the Spanish kingdom
of my living room:
the morning sunshine.
A polished wooden table gleams;
silence is the reflection of burnished woods/  pine,
maple, bamboo,
waxed to catch the yellow sun.
Outside the wall of windows,
more woods,
these turning to burgundy and gold,
the wind moving especially
the green leaved ones,
the branches fluttering and bowing,
my courtiers,
my trees.

The kettles boiling now —
one with water to scald the pot,
the second with boiling water for the tea.
This morning,
scented Earl Grey,
another courtier, this one perfumed,
a dandy, one of those too-
beautiful men I cannot resist.

On my pine and yellow canvas chair
I rest, drinking the tea,
from a white bone china cup. A remaining crumb
from last night’s crusty French bread
is being dazzled on the table’s surface/  now
an opal, a pearl, ivory,
a minor jewel dropped from the chest.

In the south window
four sweet basil plants have reached the
height of 18 inches each,
their lime green leaves pungent when
touched/  I give each a little clear water
and pinch off forming bud clusters.

This morning, against all rules,
an egg,
poached in water containing a few drops
of white rice-vinegar, its soft oval body
resting in a poaching cradle of tin,
on three tiny legs, its stiff upright handle
remaining cool
above the boiling white water.

Now, I turn out the egg on a plate
of translucent orange bordered with yellow and black. It
lies there with a vulnerable film over the yolk
while I take my small silver scissors & snip
four large leaves from another basil plant,
this one growing in the kitchen window.
The silver blades slice the leaves in ribbons over
the cooling egg.

Alone, at the big table
with my plate, my single
herbed egg, a goblet of
iced water with a fresh sprig of mint
also from the kitchen window garden,
and my china cup of hot tea I sit
in my morning kingdom.

we will ever have
is present
in each day’s life. There is no more.
Thus, I need
this morning’s royalty,
the immortality of the flesh,
the music of wood,
my perfect view of the autumn swamp.


~ from Emerald Ice: Selected Poems 1962-1987*, copyright © 1988 Diane Wakoski, published by Black Sparrow Books.


I love this free verse sacramental meditation — the slow unfolding of process, the weaving in and out of emotion, the subtle build to the pronouncements in the final stanza.

With slow deliberation, I prepared poached eggs for my breakfast this morning, snipping fresh basil, sipping my tea. My slotted spoon is my sceptor; we are all reigning poets in the kitchen.

♥ Mary Ann at Great Kid Books has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup. Enjoy the full menu of poems simmering in the blogosphere, and have a good holiday weekend!

♥ See a list of all the 2011 Poetry Friday posts on this blog here.

“Poetry, for me, is the supreme art of the individual using language to show how special, different and wonderful his perceptions are. With verve and finesse. With discursive precision. And with utter contempt for pettiness of imagination or spirit.” ~ Diane Wakoski

*Emerald Ice was the winner of the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award.


Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.