Thursday, June 09, 2011

Today I want to say something wonderful about...

My niece and her family have been staying with me for a week.
'This potato peeler is amazing,' she said as she was peeling carrots for her little boy. He is three and has a thing for raw carrots and cucumber, even for breakfast.

Last year, a friend over from Kent picked up the same potato peeler and exclaimed, 'Isn't it great?!' He had the same one at home.


It's reassuring to know that you're not completely alone in such extreme appreciation of a kitchen utensil. Although I'm the only one among us to have a written a poem in praise of it.

In Praise of Things

Today I want to say something wonderful
about my potato peeler –
the way the ergonomically designed handle
fits snugly in the curve of my palm as if
it was made for the valley of my right hand.

I want to tell you how it is soul-mate
to thick-skinned vegetables –
cloudy tangerine columns of carrot
knobbly orbs of King Edward
how it slides over them as if it might be
wrapping them not unwrapping them
as if it might be whispering
while secretly stealing their skin.

I love the way the steel head swivels
gently rocking from side to side
accommodating each slight
ridge, bump, lesion. Under the skin

everything glistens new born –
vulnerable, true colours rising.


Write your own celebration of a ‘small thing’. Choose something that is functional. It has to be ordinary, of no real value. It shouldn't have any built in emotional value. You might not even realise how much you appreciate this thing until you start looking around you.
 
Start with the same opening phrase. Tell me just how wonderful this thing is. Be specific about what it does and how it does it. It’s also an opportunity to have fun.
 
Don’t try too hard to get a secondary meaning in the poem. My last two lines emerged unexpectedly after writing about the physical aspects of the potato peeler for some time. 
 
If we work too hard at a ‘sub-text’, what’s going on between the lines if you like, the poem can sometimes come across as too didactic. Writing needs a lighter touch than that, unless you’re writing an instruction manual, in which case you can be as didactic as you want!
 
And the secondary meaning might just be that we should celebrate the small things in life.
 
It was only when I took some photos of the potato peeler for this blog entry that I realised it had a brand-name. I've been using it for years and have never noticed that word written on the underside of the handle. Perhaps because its function is its most important quality I've never even thought of examining it closely - there's never been a need. Perhaps I would have if it had ceased to work properly.
 
I imagine there are lots of things like this in my life, things I take for granted. There are probably praise poems waiting to be written all around me.
 
Write well.
L x

12 comments:

Crafty Green Poet said...

Excellent poem and I love the whole idea of this prompt. I could write a poem about my wonderful (left handed) potato peeler, it really has made a difference to my cooking....

Crafty Green Poet said...

and here's a link to my poem about a potato peeler: http://craftygreenpoet.blogspot.com/2011/06/of-poetry-and-potato-peelers.html

Glenn Buttkus said...

More than merely smelling the roses,
you have stroked the potato peeler
and sent us out to re-evaluate what
was first mundane, but may emerge
as sterling.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Pocket Riders

A moss agate worry stone,
a green rough cut crystal
from Sodona, and two tiny
sea shells from Florida lie
in a beauteous pile on
the oaken corner of my
downstairs desk, and one
at a time, or sometimes in pairs
they jump into my jeans,
hitching a ride, joining me joyfully
on one of my daily adventures.

Glenn Buttkus

June 2011

Catherine said...

Ode to the Kitchen Sink

Today I want to say something wonderful
about the sink, it is ill spoken of;
an epithet for coarse and shallow living.
Verily it is no thing of pulchritude.
Yet it is so purposeful,
so abundant in its generosity.

Be mindful of its gushing waters
which flush away our charred excuses for a meal
the greasy leavings on our plates
and set a sparkle on our glassware.

It bids a welcome to our veg,
potatoes plopped in
one
by
one,
sprouts criss-crossed, caulies deflowered,
oyster mushrooms that wave like coral in its depths.

The drainer is our ever -watchful guardian,
seizing the detritus of our carelessness-
half-chewed chicken bones, orange pips
and porage persistent as glue.

It is our Barbican for fine orchestral
concerts - we are the impresarios.
The hum and thrum and judder of the taps,
very faint parp of liquid soap,
clatter of pans,
whisht of water on dishes,
eek and squeak of marigold gloves,
ting-tong-tang of knives and forks,
and the smash of a broken glass.

Then -
the
glug of
suds
as they gurgle
and burble
round and
down.
And the hush.

We are indeed its master, it is beholden unto us,
our faithful servant. Treat it like a slave
and it will
yack up a plug of evil-smelling scum and sludge
and curse us with a mighty plumber’s bill.

Keith Wallis said...

I have a pencil in my hand
the eraser long since worn beyond
the shading of error.
But here, in tender embrace,
it still speaks love and passion
upon blank canvas.
It speaks to me, it speaks for me,
it speaks (without stammer or fall)
words that struggle
over emotion bound tongue.
It is my friend, my confidante,
my confessor, my signature.
And when depressed with bluntness
I bring it back to life
with surgeons precision
by trimming blade,
it rewards me with sharp retort.

Martin Cordrey said...

silver plated wine-stop

thank
the lord

for our wine -
stop,

before
we

had no choice
but too drink

the bottle
dry

Anonymous said...

Couldn't resist having a go at a Christopher Smart-style praise poem -

For I will conisder my laptop mouse
for it is sensitive as whiskers.
For all you have to do is twitch and the little white
arrow on the screen goes flying.
For then you get to come back from nowhere.
For miles away is really millimetres.
For drawing a line with it is painting with a hair,
closing a window, a blink.
For you stroke a rabbit's nose to scroll down the page.
For softly softly is the business.


- but this one is only mouse-sized :)

Priyadarshini said...

I write in praise of my coffee mug without which i cannto function every morning


http://ootyblues.blogspot.com/2011/06/in-appreciation-of-my-coffee-mug.html

Mary Rose said...

In praise of things.

Today I want to say something wonderful
about my strawberry huller.
It is its sheer simplicity which I admire each time I use it.
Just a small strip of tin bent double permanently
which measures 2.2” long by ¾” wide.


It is the strawberry season now and once again I am revelling
in my huller’s skill. I place each strawberry between its tender jaws
hold it tightly clamped and twist. When extracted each strawberry
gently bleeds red juice.
When strawberries are no longer here


I like hot sliced tomatoes on toast, my huller will oblige
albeit reluctantly. I feel guilty that I am neglecting
its true prowess. It was created to hull strawberries so
I must put it carefully away. It is not only the strawberries
I await eagerly as each season comes round

but the sight and handling of my
wonderful strawberry huller.

Lu said...

In Praise of Things

Today I want to say something wonderful
about my slow cooker –
it is an old electrical pot
with a crock nestled in a metal shell,
when heated, it simmers like hot springs.

I want to tell you how mild tempered it is -
you throw in desired meat, vegetables,
dried beans, mushrooms and sea weeds...
add hot water and seasonings,
turn the switch on
and leave it unattended.
Go to read, relax, or run an errand.
When you return, you'll see how
soft fire makes tender beef.

I love the way it whistles softly as steam
tries to escape, pushing the glass lid that gently
pops, poof, poof, poof to the rhythm of bubbling
stews. No spills, but an inviting smell.

Inside, everything dissolves, disintegrates
in this consistent slowness of cooking.

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Juliet - glad the prompt worked for you, and thanks for the link.

Hi Glen - I have stones and shells that hitch rides too : )

Hello Catherine - this is funny and so true. I love the Barbican as a metaphor for a sink too!

Hi Keith - I wish I could write with a pencil... there's such a lovely feel to the right lead on paper. But I seem to be too heavy handed... you obviously aren't. Thanks for sharing this.

@ Martin - you made me laugh out loud! Our wine stops don't get a lot of use...

@ Anonymous - good parody : ) Though 'mouse' is a little close to home for me today... there's one loose in my bathroom. Hard to believe the cat brings them in through a cat flap and up two flights of stairs... then lets them go! The 'humane' trap is set with cheese and chocolate but I don't hold out much hope...

Hi Priyadarshini - oh yes, coffee, the kick start of writers : )

Hello Mary Rose. Apart from enjoying your poem, I now want a strawberry huller! Although the strawberries here in France tend to be easier to hull by hand (just tugging at the leaves) than those in the UK.

Hi Lu - I used to have slow cooker... and I want another one now : )

Thanks for all your comments. x