quite a feast: jeff friedman’s “poem for ross gay”

 

Don’t you love it when a poem takes you by surprise? If you’re really lucky, it might even take you to a whole new world.

 

 

POEM FOR ROSS GAY
by Jeff Friedman

In the time it took me
to cut four Athena melons
Ross ate them.
Then he ate the entire container
of Mediterranean hummus
on a loaf of organic
sprouted spelt bread.
To distract him from his hunger,
I brought in
Larry Levis’s book Elegy,
and he said his favorite poem
was the one about the cook
growing lost in his village —
whatever that means.
He flipped through the pages
and read the poem aloud.
“That’s a great poem,” he said.
He stretched out his long legs
and arms and smiled.
Then he ate the book, too.
But he wouldn’t eat
the chocolate chip cookies
or the King Arthur chocolate
onyx wafers because his body
is a temple. Nor would he eat
the balsamic chicken, though
he scrambled all the eggs
over peppers and onions
and polished them off.
“Stay out of the kitchen,”
I ordered, “the fridge is empty.”
“Let’s do kettle bells,” he replied
and pulled out a twenty-five pound
iron ball with a handgrip.
When did you escape
from the chain gang, I asked.
He began swinging it
from between his legs up
over his head faster
and faster until he let it go.
The ball cracked open
the cathedral ceiling,
flying into the sky
like a bomb in reverse.
Tree branches fell.
Glass shattered. The phoebes
cleared out of town quick.
The kettle bell exploded
in a cloud, pieces
of gold nougat and caramel
falling on our table.
Then Ross ate the sun
and pretty soon, he was glowing.

~ from Working in Flour (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2011).

 

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What do you make of this poem?

Friedman had me at the opening lines. When someone eats four melons, I’m all in. I smiled at the hummus and spelt bread, delighted to know this voracious eater was also hungry for poetry.

When Ross ate the book (oh!), I happily stepped into Friedman’s world of altered reality. Curious and appreciative of his humor, I was game for anything from then on (yeah, my body is a temple too, but I wouldn’t turn down a chocolate chip cookie).

 

“Cantaloupe Slices” by Susan Clare”

 

As the narrative, fable, fantasy, tall tale (or whatever else you wish to call it) unfolded, I liked the sense of not knowing what would come next. It’s a good poet who can make you suspend disbelief and whet your appetite at the same time. 🙂

I didn’t know those weighted iron balls with the handles were called kettle bells. I also didn’t know Athena melons are actually cantaloupes. But I do know that the final image of the kettle bell shattering the ceiling, flying up into the sky and exploding in a cloud was one of those Emily Dickinson moments:

If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.

Pieces of gold nougat and caramel falling on our table. Then Ross ate the sun and pretty soon, he was glowing.

Wow.

Didn’t see that coming at all. Loved the feeling of wonder, exhilaration, breaking free, imagination unleashed. Words can take us anywhere and whatever we consume gives us power.

The poem starts out in a matter of fact tone, grounded in reality. It slowly builds as the reader is transported.

 

Ross is the tall one in the brown shirt.

 

I found this poem in Friedman’s book Working in Flour, after reading his interview with Annelies Zijderveld, a.k.a. The Food Poet. I was doubly rewarded, as I wasn’t familiar before with poet and Indiana Professor Ross Gay, whose Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

Apparently Gay is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. And he does work out with kettle bells. That explains it.

I also liked the round orb metaphor — melon to kettle bell to sun — each packed with its own brand of energy. Maybe Friedman was trying to say, “you are what you eat.” 🙂

What’s your biggest take away from the poem? All I know is cantaloupes will never be the same . . .

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Jeff Friedman has published six poetry collections, five with Carnegie Mellon University Press, including Pretenders (2014), Working in Flour (2011) and Black Threads (2008). His poems, mini stories and translations have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, New England Review, The Antioch Review, Poetry International, Hotel Amerika, Flash Fiction Funny, Plume, Agni Online, The New Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poets, Smokelong Quarterly, and The New Republic and many other literary magazines.

He has won numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, and two individual artist grants from the New Hampshire State Arts Council. Dzvinia Orlowsky’s and his translation of Memorials by Polish Poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014. He also collaborated with Nati Zohar on a book of translations of Israeli poets: Two Gardens: Modern Hebrew Poems of the Bible, published by Singing Bone Press in 2016. Friedman’s seventh book, Floating Tales—a collection of prose poems, fables and mini tales—is forthcoming from Plume Editions/MadHat Press in fall 2017.

Jeff Friedman lives in West Lebanon, New Hampshire with artist Colleen Randall and their dog Ruby.

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The beautiful and infinitely talented Tanita S. Davis is hosting the Roundup at fiction (instead of lies).Tippy toe over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Happy December!

 


Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

party down, mr. romond!

 

The best things happen at night while we’re asleep. Toys come alive and book characters escape from their pages so they can party. I know this definitely happens at our house because most mornings I smell mint juleps and have this strange compulsion to change my name to “Stella.”

First he told us what English teachers dream about, and then he brought us donuts. Today, Pennsylvania based poet Edwin Romond throws a literary party. What a guy. 🙂

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AT NIGHT THE CHARACTERS ON MY CLASSROOM SHELVES COME OUT TO PARTY

by Edwin Romond

Captain Ahab peers in his telescope and yells, “All clear!”
and the rest unpage from the bindings of shelf life.
Gatsby’s first in his golden Rolls, screeching around,
nearly hitting Laura Wingfield, who’s with Stanley Kowalski,
her latest hope from the Literary Computer Dating Service.
And there’s Macbeth lecherously proclaiming, “Tonight
and tonight and tonight!” as he watusis with the witches,
which irritates Jonathan Edwards who’s mingling
and telling everyone to go to hell. The Duke and the King
try to sell Mississippi time shares to Hester, but she’s busy
with my grade book changing all the marks to “A’s.”
And there’s Old Rip scribbling on my desks, “This class
puts me to sleep,” but Blanche DuBois is really in trouble
depending on the kindness of strange Edgar Allan Poe
who’s moaning how lovely she’d look in a casket.
Then “Better Late Than Never” Reverend Dimmesdale
preaches from Planned Parenthood Journal to Oscar Wilde,
who is not interested. The party’s getting hot now
which makes Lady Macbeth tell the fur-coated Jack London,
“Off, off, damned coat!” just as the cast of “The Lottery”
arrives to suggest that everyone get stoned. They all go wild
till poet Emily, who never left the shelf to begin with,
peeks out to whisper, “Homeroom!” and they all scurry back
like illegal aliens. But poor Hamlet can’t find Hamlet
so he jumps into “The Lady or the Tiger?” where he stares
at both doors before turning to the crowd to warn,
“You’d better get comfortable. This might take a while.”

~ from Dream Teaching: Poems by Edwin Romond (Grayson Books, 2004)

 

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an easter tale starring mr cornelius and his checkmates

Happy Good Friday!

We’ve just read Tasha Tudor’s A Tale for Easter, and loved the part that said, “You can never really tell, for anything might happen on Easter.”

In the story, a little girl dreamed that a fawn took her on a magical ride through the woods and fields, where she saw  “rabbits smoothing their sleek coats for Easter morning,” “little lambs in fields of buttercups,” and “Easter ducklings swimming among the lily pads.” She even got to ride up over the “misty moisty clouds,” a place “where the bluebirds dye their feathers, and the robins find the color for their eggs.”

Mr Cornelius especially liked the part about having hot cross buns (or any other treat) on Good Friday, so he invited a few friends over for fun, food, and games. After all, it’s almost Easter, and anything might happen. 🙂

 

 

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surprise book giveaway!

 

Just because it’s Poetry Month, Mr Cornelius and Blue Bear have decided to do a surprise, drive-by giveaway!

If you’d like to win a copy of THERE WAS AN OLD GATOR WHO SWALLOWED A MOTH by B.J. Lee and David Opie, just leave a comment here by next Wednesday, April 17, 2019!! If you prefer, send an email with GATOR in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please.

In case you missed it and want to learn more about the book, check out B.J. Lee’s recent Author Chat.

Good Luck!!


Copyright © 2019 Cornelius and Blue Bear Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

[lipsmacking review] Hannah’s Tall Order by Linda Vander Heyden and Kayla Harren

#58 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

I hope you’re really, really hungry, because this story is quite a feast. Put on a very big bib, please.

May I tempt you with green peppers, figs, tomatoes, marshmallow fluff?

Care to wrap your lips around a buttery slice of avocado, dive into a tub of whipped cream, or slather yourself with a side of honey or ketchup?

All of this and more are yours when you read Hannah’s Tall Order by Linda Vander Heyden and Kayla Harren (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018) This hilarious, somewhat messy, lick-the-pages story serves up a tastebud tickling smorgasbord between two slices of bread.

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