Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Comfort Food for Thought

It’s Fat Tuesday in the blog, so I should perhaps discuss the upcoming pumpkin bread blitz, the weird cupcake extravaganza (exploding in my origami brain), or the Rolo turtles (Rolo melted on a mini-pretzel, topped with a pecan) that I hope not to burn, my excellent mashed potatoes (secret ingredients: potatoes, butter, cream) (always my Christmas dinner contribution, along with the pumpkin bread), but, after this fat sentence is over, I intend to mention two statements that were, for me, a kind of “comfort food for thought” involving poetry.

Both statements come from The Writer’s Almanac, which, like everything else, needs your financial support.

Today there is this, from James Wright, who, like me, went to Kenyon College.  He’s talking about thinking he was done with poetry and discovering he was not:

“Sometimes there is a force of life like the spring which mysteriously takes shape without your even having asked it to take shape, and this is frightening, it is terribly frightening. …Being a poet sometimes puts you at the mercy of life, and life is not always merciful.”

And on Sunday, there was this from poet and novelist JimHarrison:

“Life is sentimental. Why should I be cold and hard about it? That’s the main content. The biggest thing in people’s lives is their loves and dreams and visions, you know.”

Yes, exactly! As poets we resist and fear being sentimental--that is, asking for more emotion that is warranted, or manipulating the reader (jerking the tears), or telling the reader how to feel, etc. But, sometimes, we should…yes, fear not! And remember that our “loves and dreams and visions” already connect to theirs.

Now, I could complain about male writers getting away with tender, honest statements like this and women writers getting dismissed or insulted for similar tenderness…but I won’t. That’s been said before, noticed by many. I want to be done with that and let us all speak as openly and honestly as we want in our poems.

And, anyway, the tenderness was criticized in these male writers—for instance, in this Poetry Foundation article about Wright. But tenderness seldom bothers tender-hearted me, and one of my favorite poems is “A Blessing.” Oh, how I love the tender eyes and ears of those ponies “[j]ust off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota.”

We are sentimental. Being a poet is frightening.

Fortunately, there’s chocolate. And mashed potatoes. Not together though, OK?


Sandy Longhorn said...

First, I love that you list 'potatoes' as one of the secret ingredients in your mashed potatoes. That just made me giggle.

Second, hear hear! to sentiment in poetry. The backlash against it has gone on too long and too far. I'm left cold by those antiseptic poems that display the prowess of craft but offer no heart. Thanks for the quotes and the reminder of "A Blessing," one of my all-time favorites. Here's to breaking into blossom in the new year.

Kathleen said...

Yay!! I am glad to have made you giggle. (I made me giggle, too!)

I was thinking of tender-hearted, earnest you as I wrote, so I am glad you saw this and agree!

Hannah Stephenson said...

Ugh, I know what you mean about being sentimental. I am so that way, too...I always get sentimental at the end of every semester (regardless of how I feel during it!). I used to feel like I was too warm/fuzzy on my last days of class, but now I (try to) own it....I always give students and Annie Dillard quote, and always say that I honor their work and growth as thinkers and writers, without taking credit for it. Mushy stuff like that :).

Pass the chocolate?

Maureen said...

Are the Rolo turtles your own recipe? Amazing.

Great quotes!

Kathleen said...

Oh, yes, Hannah! Don't you just always love your students for their hard work and earnestness, and even their mistakes and mishaps?! (Of course, there are also the annoying irresponsible ones and cheaters...but, sigh...hey.)

Maureen, it's on the side of the package! And on a teenager's cooking blog you can click here in my blog entry! Her entry is from 2010 and she was thinking of colleges and making Rolo turtles!

Carol Berg said...

Oh Kathleen, yum!!! caramel and pecans and chocolate--oh my...(and my favorite of all sweets1)

Kathleen said...

Easy to make, Carol!

Uh, except I can pretty much burn anything.

Collagemama said...

I would feel better about politics and Our Nation's Future if the two-party system was mashed potatoes and chocolate.

Anonymous said...

oh. i mean oy- that quote about being a poet and life not always being merciful. yes.being at the mercy of life is our common denominator.

Kathleen said...

So much brings us all together! Yes, Sherry! And, ah, Nancy, if only the Democrats and Republicans could just agree on that one thing! Or that, er, thing on the menu: chocomash.