Monday, March 22, 2010

Hungry for Poetry? Favorite Food Poems

I've had an idea for awhile, that if I were to write poems about mouth watering meals, I may not need to eat as much. Tempting as it is, I have yet to put the "Poems Instead of Profiteroles" diet to the test In the meantime, I am interested in hearing about your favorite food poems -- or better yet -- challenging you to write a food poem during the next month as part of National Poetry Month. For awhile, every poem I wrote had dark chocolate or Russian black bread show up. One reason this happens is that food directs us immediately into the land of the senses. I also find an incredible range of music in mandarin, lasagna, apricot, al la mode, mocha creams.

Here is a food poem

Da Capo

Take the used-up heart like a pebble
and throw it far out.

Soon there is nothing left.
Soon the last ripple exhausts itself
in the weeds.

Returning home, slice carrots, onions, celery.
Glaze them in oil before adding
the lentils, water, and herbs.

Then the roasted chestnuts, a little pepper, the salt.
Finish with goat cheese and parsley. Eat.
You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted.
Begin again the story of your life.

                        --- Jane Hirshfield

So often food stands in for grief, for lost love, for an avenue back to the living -- as it does in this poem. Do you write food poems? Do you have a favorite one? Feel free to post them here.


  1. One of my favorite food poems is “The Invention of Cuisine” by Carol Muske-Dukes:

    A sort-of food poem that I’m currently working on is titled “Syrup Problem,” and begins:

    My wife Vivienne really likes syrup,
    especially with waffles on the weekends;
    sometimes she even sneaks out of bed
    for a sip of maple or raspberry — straight
    from the bottle — before she re-stains her

  2. The poet Kevin Young's book DEAR DARKNESS contains several poems about food...

  3. Also, "Onions" by William Matthews:


    How easily happiness begins by
    dicing onions. A lump of sweet butter
    slithers and swirls across the floor
    of the sauté pan, especially if its
    errant path crosses a tiny slick
    of olive oil. Then a tumble of onions.

    This could mean soup or risotto
    or chutney (from the Sanskrit
    chatni, to lick). Slowly the onions
    go limp and then nacreous
    and then what cookbooks call clear,
    though if they were eyes you could see

    clearly the cataracts in them.
    It’s true it can make you weep
    to peel them, to unfurl and to tease
    from the taut ball first the brittle,
    caramel-colored and decrepit
    papery outside layer, the least

    recent the reticent onion
    wrapped around its growing body,
    for there’s nothing to an onion
    but skin, and it’s true you can go on
    weeping as you go on in, through
    the moist middle skins, the sweetest

    and thickest, and you can go on
    in to the core, to the bud-like,
    acrid, fibrous skins densely
    clustered there, stalky and in-
    complete, and these are the most
    pungent, like the nuggets of nightmare

    and rage and murmury animal
    comfort that infant humans secrete.
    This is the best domestic perfume.
    You sit down to eat with a rumor
    of onions still on your twice-washed
    hands and lift to your mouth a hint

    of a story about loam and usual
    endurance. It’s there when you clean up
    and rinse the wine glasses and make
    a joke, and you leave the minutest
    whiff of it on the light switch,
    later, when you climb the stairs.

  4. Yes, to this Bill Matthews poem -- one of my favorites, too!

  5. Oh gosh, I don't think I've ever met a food poem I haven't at least admired a little. Diane Lockward's "Linguine" is awesome. Garrison Keilor read it last year on the Writer's Almanac:

    Another one of my favorites is Patricia Smith's "When the Burning Begins." She does an amazing performance of this . . . you can hear it online at

    I could go on and on. Juan Felipe Herrera's "World Unity Salsa" is another great one.

  6. I remember reading "World Unity Salsa" on your blog -- the title alone is delicious!