A Poem Feast

Author: | Posted in Round-Up No comments

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Ploughshares staff is working on a roundup of our favorite food writing.  Senior Reader Wesley Rothman’s contribution was so fantastic and thorough we thought it deserved its own blog post.  Read on to whet your appetite for the roundup coming tomorrow and for the feast you’ll consume on Thursday.

If when your hunger wanes and the tryptophan stupor descends you think you might want to appease your poetic appetite, here are some recent, not so recent, and classics of feastly poems and poets.

With the current installment of the Best American Poetry series just out, find a wide array of what poetry looks like in 2012, and enjoy Rick Barot’s poem “Child Holding Potato,” Eric Pankey’s “Sober Then Drunk Again,” and Jane Hirshfield’s “In a Kitchen Where Mushrooms Were Washed” which first appeared in Ploughshares’ 40th Anniversary issue, fall 2011. Or you might look back to the 2011 installment where Morton Marcus’s “Pears,” Lee Upton’s “Drunk at a Party,” and Matthew Dickman’s “Coffee” appear. Watch Dickman read his poem here

Another recent and eclectic mix of feast-related poems is Kevin Young’s anthology The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink. This fun collection will not so much induce a food coma as it will inspire further hunger, perfect for some reading and preparation between turkey and pie. Here is review of the collection that offers its own hungry recommendations for food poetry not compiled in Young’s anthology.

You might be looking for a more substantial serving of one poet, and there are plenty of recent collections to consider that will sate your appetite. Natalie Diaz’s debut collection of poems, When My Brother Was An Aztec is turning heads across the poetry community and she is certainly, as she has described herself, a writer with voracious hunger, compiling incredible scenes, details, and emotions into each of her poems. Some specific poems to read this Thanksgiving include “Why I Hate Raisins,” “Tortilla Smoke: A Genesis,” “No More Cake Here,” and “I Watch Her Eat the Apple.” Read “Why I Hate Raisins” and a brief selection from her book here. And read an interview with Natalie Diaz from an earlier Ploughshares blog post.

Our current Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, has a stirring, new book out, Thrall. With her signature exactitude of image, language, and line, Trethewey offers us a fullness of thought and emotion that our Thanksgiving tables might not fully achieve. And in very recent news, David Ferry’s Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations, has been awarded the 2012 National Book Award for poetry—a collection that achieves and embodies its title, and will fulfill our hunger for life. In the spirit of food and after dinner coffee, read two of Ferry’s poems here: “That Evening at Dinner,” and “Coffee Lips.”

And in another stunning appearance, a matriarch of 20th century and contemporary poetry, Sharon Olds brings us her latest book of poems, Stag’s Leap—a diverse range of flavors we taste at the banquet of life. Your poetry palette will see, hear, and feel all the passion and rage, peace and turbulence of experience. And a very appropriate read from Olds’ earlier work: “First Thanksgiving.”

As a nod to earlier poems and other appetites, below is a smattering of delicious poems to sit with and enjoy this holiday.

And lastly, here is a link to some Thanksgiving poem recommendations from the Poetry Foundation, “The Cranberry Cantos.”

Wesley Rothman serves as senior poetry reader for Ploughshares and an assistant poetry editor for Narrative. A finalist for the 49th Parallel and McCabe Poetry Prizes, Rothman’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Bellingham ReviewSalamanderRuminate, and Newcity among others. He teaches at Emerson College and the University of Massachusetts, Boston.