Thursday, December 10, 2009

December Poetry Prompt 1 - Food

Food is on my mind. Not surprisingly since I seem to have eaten non-stop for the last three weeks! I always end up eating more when I'm doing less - lazing about on the beach and loitering in bookshops must use up far more energy than I realise : )

Although, to be honest, food is never very far from my mind. When I was teaching at the University of Kent, in the UK, one student remarked that I had never managed to last a whole seminar without mentioning food or drink. In the context of the seminar's theme, that is... But it's true that my novel, The Oven House, is full of foodie bits - coffee shops, poached salmon, kettle crisps, home-made soup, pesto sauce, ice-cream...

I also know that food plays an important part in my memories, from my dad's vegetable garden, to the tin of condensed milk my granny kept on the kitchen table to add to her tea, to the frozen peas I tried to outstare every time my mother put them on my plate and said, 'Eat them. They're good for you.'

Brainstorm for food associated with your childhood. Food you liked and food you hated. Food and drink that you weren't allowed to have. Treats. Special occasions. Fears and rewards.

Here's an old poem of mine to start you off.

Bean Picking
for my father

When the jungle of leaves
dropped their scarlet blossoms
we waited for them to grow
at first invisible against the green

but in August we pushed
between the rows with a colander
and your orders to leave the small
and not to miss the big.

The coarse underside of leaves
grazed our bare shoulders, sun
dribbled through the overlaps.
We smelt hot, uncooked beans

and tugged them from their stalks,
some solid bodied, plumping
along their length, others curling
like witches’ fingernails.

In the kitchen you topped, tailed,
and pared the spines away.
Just a plate of these’ll do me you used to say,
with butter and a drop of pepper.

At the end of Summer
you saved twelve maybe twenty
moist red hearts
to harden in brown paper.

Write well.


Erin Mathews said...

He handed me a bowl of chocolate ice cream,
the bottom of which was already cold.
I pulled my pajama sleeves over my hands
and held it like a baby.
With the spoon,
I smashed the perfectly round scoops,
flattening them and stirring.
Then I set the bowl under the end table’s lamp
and waited.
He looked over at me from across the room,
spoonful of ice cream in his mouth,
and raised his eyebrows.
I watched the ice cream under the lamp—
the edges melting, the middle sinking.
I poked my finger into its soft, liquidy center—
like a shake.
I smiled at my dad,
brought the bowl to my mouth,
and drank.

Martin Cordrey said...

Flying saucers

I loved ‘flying saucers’ as a kid,
more than my childhood,
just saying so is a sin
like telling small people father

Christmas does not exist;
for years I was convinced
aliens would arrive in a craft
take me away from life as I knew it,

they’d sprinkle fairy dust
on my forehead so I could become –
anything other than me –
a tall knight, a brave soldier,

mad scientist, a lion, even
a princess if I so desired,
it would not matter in another world,
I could choose my own destiny,

not the misfortune of birth.
Years later I brought a packet
from a local sweet shop,
sherbet dissolved bitterly

in my mouth, not at all
how I remembered it.

Lynne Rees said...

Hello Erin - I love to read about these little rituals we have, and had as children. I was a little surprised to read 'my dad' at the end as I pictured an adult. Perhaps it's the expression 'held it like a baby'? And perhaps 'soft liquidy center-/like a shake' could be stronger too? A metaphor, or simile to catch the reader's imagination? Just a light touch though.

Martin: I feel this! I've been so disppointed by trying childhood sweets ('fruit salads' in particular - those little fruity chews the same size as black jacks). You could draw out the sensory experience of the end... what always struck me about flying saucers was how the paper stuck to the roof of my mouth... and perhaps this image of something 'sticking' could be used in relation to the theme of the poem.

JPK said...

Sausages are not a fruit,
I'm very sad to say,
they cannot, therefore, constitute,
part of one's five a day.

Lynne Rees said...

@ JPK - not even if they're pork and apple? And surely there's some onion in them? That must count : ) I miss british sausages.

JPK said...

In that case Lynne, just for you:-


Oh Sausage in your crisp and gleaming skin
crackling and spitting there upon my pan
How savoury sweet the flesh you hold within
How needful to the nourishment of man.
In breakfasts, in a sandwich or a roll,
with ketchup or mustard as it take my mood.
No words suffice, your wonders to extol
Oh spire atop the temple that is food.

Yet perilous it is for such as me
To worship at your culinary shrine,
For, in reward, nought but obesity
and raised cholesterol levels will be mine.
My doctor is a cold and heartless brute
to say that I must nibble upon fruit

Lynne Rees said...

Saucissonette!!! I love it. Thank you, JPK.

Martin Cordrey said...

* misfortune of birth.
Years later I brought a packet
from a local sweet shop,
sherbet dissolved bitterly

on my tongue, the memory
lodged in my throat
making me gag, not at all
how I remembered it.

Samuel said...

Your eyes are like slow motion poetry,
The sensation of your embrace,
The comfort of your kiss,
Your lips,
Drawing me in,
Are everything that makes me,
My heart beats for your happiness,
I am devoted to your smile,
Provoking your in child,
I hold your well being close to my soul,
My passion is over flowing,
My chosen angel,
Hand picked by the gods,
Your youthful image,
Suspended in time,
Unshakable by the passing of years,
My star of the night,
My one chance at true life,
The animal instinct,
Magnificent lust,
For you...
My never ending hopeless love.

truespartan said...

It is really great to find others who love poetry.

Lynne Rees said...

Hello Martin - thanks for posting a revised ending. I was thinking along the lines of something more sensory, as I said in my comments, an image (concrete or figurative) rather than a direct statement, something the reader can savour. Given this poem is all about taste and flavour it could be a stronger ending.

Hello Samuel - welcome to AppleHouse Poetry : ))
and thank you for posting your poem. It's not in response to the 'food' prompt but you nevertheless enjoy working with free verse and have made conscious decisions re the shaping. Look forward to reading more of your work on future postings.

Hello truespartan - thank you for taking the time to comment and pop in and see us anytime you like.

JPK said...


I've eaten boar and I've eaten bear,
I've dined on amphibians legs.
I've eaten pork scratchings that still had their hair,
I've even tried hundred year eggs.

I've consumed uni sushi, that's just orange slime,
(some say it's the best you can get).
But the thing that will make me throw up every time
Is if you tried to feed me Courgette.

No don't ever feed me courgette,
It's something you're sure to regret,
Those tiny green cukes
just give me the pukes.
No don't ever feed me courgette.

I've drunk camel's milk and sipped on mouse wine
and even American beer.
I visited Finland around Christmas time
And ate one of Santa's reindeer.

I've eaten, in temples, the offerings burnt
As appeasement to Baal or to Moloch,
And at Korean barbies, where later I learnt
That the meatballs were just the dog's bollocks.

But if you ever give me courgettes,
You will think I've contracted Turrette's.
I come over all spleeny when I see zuchinni.
No don't ever give me courgettes.

Lynne Rees said...

Lol, JPK. I think you have a series in progress here. : )