this year, in the UK, will be October 7th.
And the theme is ... food.
Once again, I'm reading poetry to secondary school pupils - age group eleven to sixteen - and I'm looking for suggestions for relatively short, accessible poems. Help, please.
THIS IS JUST TO SAY
by Wm Carlos Williams
Gertrude Stein's poem (or something) called FOOD -- there might be passages in it you could use.
As you might expect, searching verse on Bartleby.com for the word "food" gets you mostly poems where food is a metaphor (for salvation, love, what have you).
But I just tried searching verse for the word BEEF and saw a lot of poems about meals. So try that... and then try other edible words.
AND THAT REMINDED ME of the beef-and-mustard scene in TAMING OF THE SHREW, where Kate is famished and Petruchio's servant tortures her by describing food.
May I recommend some of the Hobbit songs in Lord of the Rings?
I will provide details Monday once I get a chance to look.
"Soup of the evening,
--Mock Turtle's song from ALICE
A DIET PRAYER
By Victor Buono in his book It Could Be Verse
Lord, My soul is ripped with riot
incited by my wicked diet.
"We Are What We Eat," said a wise old man!
and, Lord, if that's true, I'm a garbage can.
I want to rise on Judgment Day, that's plain!
but at my present weight, I'll need a crane.
So grant me strength, that I may not fall
into the clutches of cholesterol.
May my flesh with carrot-curls be dated,
that my soul may be poly unsaturated
And show me the light, that I may bear witness
to the President's Council on Physical Fitness.
And at oleomargarine I'll never mutter,
for the road to Hell is spread with butter.
And cream is cursed; and cake is awful;
and Satan is hiding in every waffle.
Mephistopheles lurks in provolone;
the Devil is in each slice of baloney,
Beelzebub is a chocolate drop,
and Lucifer is a lollipop.
Give me this day my daily slice
but, cut it thin and toast it twice.
I beg upon my dimpled knees,
deliver me from jujubees.
And when my days of trial are done,
and my war with malted milk is won,
Let me stand with Heavenly throng,
In a shining robe--size 30 long.
I can do it Lord, If You'll show to me,
the virtues of lettuce and celery.
If You'll teach me the evil of mayonnaise,
of pasta a la Milannaise
potatoes a la Lyonnaise
and crisp-fried chicken from the South.
Lord, if you love me, shut my mouth.
these are from poetry4kids.com,
all by Kenn Nesbitt :
Mashed Potatoes on the Ceiling
Mashed potatoes on the ceiling.
Green beans on the floor.
Stewed tomatoes in the corner.
Squash upon the door.
Pickled peppers in my pocket.
Spinach up my sleeves.
Mushrooms in my underpants with
leeks and lettuce leaves.
Okra, onions, artichokes,
aparagus and beets;
buried neatly underneath the
cushions of our seats.
All the rest I've hidden in my socks
and down my shirt.
I'm done with all my vegetables.
I'm ready for dessert!
I Bought My Mom an Apple
I bought my mom an apple
but it wasn't red or green;
it was more like bluish-purple
or some color in-between.
I wouldn't call the blueberries
I bought her very blue;
they were rather reddish-orange
like a dark vermilion hue.
The oranges I got for her
weren't orange as you'd think;
they were turquoise on the inside
and the outer peels were pink.
The strawberries I purchased
weren't particularly red;
They were white with purple polka dots
and silver stripes instead.
I got all these by shopping
where I'd never shopped before.
That's the last time I buy groceries
at the Rainbow Grocery Store!
I'm Getting Sick of Peanut Butter
I look inside my lunch box,
and, oh, what do I see?
A peanut butter sandwich
staring glumly back at me.
I know I had one yesterday,
and, yes, the day before.
In fact, that's all I've eaten
for at least a month or more.
I'm sure tomorrow afternoon
the outlook's just as bleak.
I'll bet I'm having peanut butter
every day this week.
I'm getting sick of peanut butter
sandwiches for lunch.
Why can't I have baloney
or potato chips to munch?
I wish I had lasagna
or a piece of pumpkin pie.
Another day of peanut butter
might just make me cry.
But still this awful sandwich
is in every lunch I take.
You see, it is the only thing
that I know how to make.
Our Mother's at a Meeting
Our mother's at a meeting
for some big, important deal,
and couldn't be at home tonight
to cook the evening meal.
She left some short directions
for my sister just to follow.
Instead my sister cooked up things
impossible to swallow.
Like Brussels sprouts in vinegar
and jellybeans in mustard,
an onion-pickle pudding
and a lemon-radish custard.
She burned a stick of butter
'til the house was filled with smoke,
then fried a pound of pepper
with a half an artichoke.
She put a whole banana
in the blender with a steak,
then mixed it up with tunafish
and baked it in a cake.
She stirred some chocolate ice cream
with garbanzo beans and bacon.
A single bite was all it took
to leave me feeling shaken.
We should have ordered pizza
but we didn't know, alas,
my sister is the only one
who flunked her cooking class.
How about Ogden Nash's celery stewed is more quietly chewed?
"For this is every cook's opinion,
No savoury dish without an onion;
But lest your kissing should be spoiled,
Your onions should be thoroughly boiled."
"Why is it that the poet tells
So little of the sense of smell?
These are the odors I love well:
The smell of coffee freshly ground;
Or rich plum pudding, holly crowned;
Or onions fried and deeply browned…"
At the very top of the list I nominate Ben Jonson's "Inviting a Friend to Supper". He has also a small poem that I cannot locate about thanking a woman for sending him a pipkin of something. And to look at the thing another way "To Celia" which is the well known "Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes.
Here's a short one by Robert Herrick:
MEAT WITHOUT MIRTH.
by Robert Herrick
EATEN I have ; and though I had good cheer,
I did not sup, because no friends were there.
Where mirth and friends are absent when we dine
Or sup, there wants the incense and the wine.
Then there's always 'Food Glorious Food' from Oliver.
A couple of suggestions..
Poem on Bread
The poet is about to write a poem;
He does not use a pencil or a pen.
He dips his long, thin finger into jam
Or something savoury preferred by men.
This poet does not choose to write on paper;
He takes a single slice of well-baked bread
And with his jam or marmite-nibbed forefinger
He writes his verses down on that instead.
His poem is fairly short as all the best are.
When he has finished it he hopes that you
Or someone else - your brother, friend or sister -
Will read and find it marvellous and true.
If you can't read, then eat: it tastes quite good.
If you do neither, all that I can say
Is he who needs no poetry or bread
Is really in a devilish bad way.
(Oxford book of children's verse)
Millions of Strawberries
Marcia and I went over the curve,
Eating our way down
Jewels of strawberries we didn't deserve,
Eating our way down
Till our hands were sticky, and our lips painted.
And over us the hot day fainted,
And we saw snakes,
And got scratched,
And a lust overcame us for the red unmatched
Small buds of berries,
Till we lay down -
Eating our way down -
And rolled in the berries like two little dogs,
In the late gold.
And gnats hummed,
And it was cold,
And home we went, home without a berry,
Painted red and brown,
Eating our way down.
Genevieve Taggard (1894-1948)
A silver-scaled Dragon with jaws flaming red
Sits at my elbow and toasts my bread.
I hand him fat slices, and then, one by one,
He hands them back when he sees they are done.
William Jay Smith
Johnny mentioned Hobbit songs.
I think Gollum has a nice little song about FISH, too.
yES, WISH FOR A FISH !
Considering the age-group...i figured that Tolkien would be QUITE accessible. Maybe the little nippers will pick up the book !
Better than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Farts
How about Milne's The King's Breakfast as an indictment on bureaucracy!
Kids of that age tend to have a dark outlook on life, so why not the cannibal portion (if you'll forgive the word) of Don Juan?
The seventh day, and no wind - the burning sun
Blister'd and scorch'd, and, stagnant on the sea,
They lay like carcasses; and hope was none,
Save in the breeze that came not; savagely
They glared upon each other - all was done,
Water, and wine, and food,- and you might see
The longings of the cannibal arise
(Although they spoke not) in their wolfish eyes.
At length one whisper'd his companion, who
Whisper'd another, and thus it went round,
And then into a hoarser murmur grew,
An ominous, and wild, and desperate sound;
And when his comrade's thought each sufferer knew,
'T was but his own, suppress'd till now, he found:
And out they spoke of lots for flesh and blood,
And who should die to be his fellow's food.
But ere they came to this, they that day shared
Some leathern caps, and what remain'd of shoes;
And then they look'd around them and despair'd,
And none to be the sacrifice would choose;
At length the lots were torn up, and prepared,
But of materials that much shock the Muse -
Having no paper, for the want of better,
They took by force from Juan Julia's letter.
The lots were made, and mark'd, and mix'd, and handed,
In silent horror, and their distribution
Lull'd even the savage hunger which demanded,
Like the Promethean vulture, this pollution;
None in particular had sought or plann'd it,
'T was nature gnaw'd them to this resolution,
By which none were permitted to be neuter -
And the lot fell on Juan's luckless tutor.
He but requested to be bled to death:
The surgeon had his instruments, and bled
Pedrillo, and so gently ebb'd his breath,
You hardly could perceive when he was dead.
He died as born, a Catholic in faith,
Like most in the belief in which they 're bred,
And first a little crucifix he kiss'd,
And then held out his jugular and wrist.
The surgeon, as there was no other fee,
Had his first choice of morsels for his pains;
But being thirstiest at the moment, he
Preferr'd a draught from the fast -flowing veins:
Part was divided, part thrown in the sea,
And such things as the entrails and the brains
Regaled two sharks, who follow'd o'er the billow -
The sailors ate the rest of poor Pedrillo.
The sailors ate him, all save three or four,
Who were not quite so fond of animal food;
To these was added Juan, who, before
Refusing his own spaniel, hardly could
Feel now his appetite increased much more;
'T was not to be expected that he should,
Even in extremity of their disaster,
Dine with them on his pastor and his master.
'T was better that he did not; for, in fact,
The consequence was awful in the extreme;
For they, who were most ravenous in the act,
Went raging mad - Lord! how they did blaspheme!
And foam and roll, with strange convulsions rack'd,
Drinking salt water like a mountain -stream,
Tearing, and grinning, howling, screeching, swearing,
And, with hyaena -laughter, died despairing.
Their numbers were much thinn'd by this infliction,
And all the rest were thin enough, Heaven knows;
And some of them had lost their recollection,
Happier than they who still perceived their woes;
But others ponder'd on a new dissection,
As if not warn'd sufficiently by those
Who had already perish'd, suffering madly,
For having used their appetites so sadly.
And next they thought upon the master's mate,
As fattest; but he saved himself, because,
Besides being much averse from such a fate,
There were some other reasons: the first was,
He had been rather indisposed of late;
And that which chiefly proved his saving clause
Was a small present made to him at Cadiz,
By general subscription of the ladies.
Of poor Pedrillo something still remain'd,
But was used sparingly,- some were afraid,
And others still their appetites constrain'd,
Or but at times a little supper made;
All except Juan, who throughout abstain'd,
Chewing a piece of bamboo and some lead:
At length they caught two boobies and a noddy,
And then they left off eating the dead body.
And if Pedrillo's fate should shocking be,
Remember Ugolino condescends
To eat the head of his arch -enemy
The moment after he politely ends
His tale: if foes be food in hell, at sea
'T is surely fair to dine upon our friends,
When shipwreck's short allowance grows too scanty,
Without being much more horrible than Dante.
Michael Rosen's Chocolate Cake
The most dramatic poem about chocolate cake in the world! It starts
I love chocolate cake.
And when I was a boy
I loved it even more.
Sometimes we used to have it for tea
and Mum used to say,
'If there's any left over
you can have it to take to school
tomorrow to have at playtime.'
And the next day I would take it to school
wrapped up in tin foil
open it up at playtime
and sit in the corner of the playground
you know how the icing on top
is all shiny and it cracks as you
bite into it,
and there's that other kind of icing in
and it sticks to your hands and you
can lick your fingers
and lick your lips
oh it's lovely.
Ballad: The Yarn of the Nancy Bell by W S Gilbert
'Twas on the shores that round our coast
From Deal to Ramsgate span,
That I found alone on a piece of stone
An elderly naval man.
His hair was weedy, his beard was long,
And weedy and long was he,
And I heard this wight on the shore recite,
In a singular minor key:
"Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the NANCY brig,
And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig."
It continues as a light-hearted but macabre tale...