December 9, 2015

Prompt: Poetry as Food

I read an article about how the Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust works with a poet who is appearing at CĂșirt International Festival of Literature to select poetry suitable for display in waiting areas of their hospitals. These "Poems for Patience" is a collection that hopefully will give people pause for reflection and space for hope in both those joyful celebratory moments as well as the all too often times of pain or worry. This year the poems were selected and introduced by Naomi Shihab Nye.

On Poetry Day (7 May) a Menu of Poems called ‘Flow’ was distributed throughout Irish hospital wards, waiting rooms and other healthcare settings for patients, visitors and staff to enjoy. You can see the menu at

This got me thinking about serving poetry as food. Poetry as something you take in on a daily basis and that sustains you. Some of it good and solid and healthy, and sometimes some that is light and sweet, or heavy and probably not the best thing to have at that time.

There are a good number of poems about food, but that is not what we are dealing with in this prompt. There are also some well known poems about eating poetry.

One that is often anthologized and used in schools is "How To Eat a Poem" by Eve Merriam.

Don't be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that
may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.
You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.
For there is no core
or stem
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away.
Also well known is "Eating Poetry" by Mark Strand, which appeared on this year's National Poetry Month poster and begins:    
Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry...

But what I am more interested in for this month's prompt is what Galway Kinnell does in his poem "Blackberry Eating."

Maybe the Galway Hospital triggered the Kinnell connection, but in his poem we have him first being quite literal in his eating -
I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making;
- and then something else happens. The blackberries, with their "black art" become words, if not poems.

and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry-eating in late September.
The prompt this month is poetry as food - poems that explore how we consume poetry, what it gives us, and may or may not contain references to actual foods.

With holidays and such at year's end, I'm sure you will have more than enough foods prompting you.

The submission deadline for this prompt is January 10, 2016.

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