THE BLOG
12/31/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

A Little Poetic Gluttony

I once heard a nutrition expert claim that no matter how much you eat, it's impossible to gain a pound during a meal. Well, on one day a year, all of America challenges that theory. It's our most gluttonous day in what Keats deemed a season of gorging in his great ode "To Autumn:"

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cells.

And since most of us are probably still o'er brimming our pants after Thursday's feast, I thought it apropos to fill today's post with poems about food.

Food verse is often a celebration of the sensual. You probably know the famous "This Is Just To Say" by William Carlos Williams.

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Here, Galway Kinnell celebrates another berry in "Blackberry Eating:"

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue...
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry -- eating in late September.

Some poets take the sensuality of eating even further. Here's an excerpt from "Artichoke" by Scottish poet Robin Robertson, who is very good with the erotic line:

The nubbed leaves
come away
in a tease of green, thinning
down to the membrane:
the quick, purpled,
beginnings of the male...
the stub-root aching in its oil.

Every time I read that I make an uncomfortable face. I can't help it. And perhaps no one is better known for his food poetry than Pablo Neruda. Here's an excerpt from "Ode to Wine."

My darling, suddenly
the line of your hip
becomes the brimming curve
of the wine goblet,
your breast is the grape cluster,
your nipples are the grapes,
the gleam of spirits lights your hair,
and your navel is a chaste seal
stamped on the vessel of your belly,
your love an inexhaustible
cascade of wine,
light that illuminates my senses,
the earthly splendor of life.

Getting a little too hot for you? Ogden Nash is decidedly non-sensual in his epic poem "Further Reflections on Parsley":

Parsley
Is gharsley.

If your hunger remains unsatisfied, you might explore this handy database of Shakespeare's references to victuals. Like Thersites' curious description of Agamemnon in Troilus and Cressida as "An honest fellow enough and one that loves quails" (Act V, Scene 1).

For those of us already thinking about a diet, we can take our cue from another Nash poem:

Celery, raw
Develops the jaw,
But celery, stewed,
Is more quietly chewed.

Just try to go easy on the peanut butter.

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