Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Guest Poet Diane Lockward on Food Poems

Note: I’ve known Diane Lockward for a number of years. She’s an amazing poet with an equally amazing reading style. I asked Diane to be a guest poet this week because next week's prompt will consider poems about food, and Diane's food poems are among the best I’ve read. She has said of her work, "Some of the poems are about the hunger we have for real food, but others are about the larger hungers – our need for love, for sex, family, success, the past. These hungers are a kind of longing. I'm interested in what happens when we are left undernourished or starving." Diane is the author of three poetry books, What Feeds Us, which received the 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize, Eve’s Red Dress, and, most recently, Temptation by Water. Her poems have been published in several anthologies and in such journals as Harvard Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. Interestingly, Diane's husband owns a restaurant.

From Diane Lockward

I’m often asked why I write poems about food. My interest, of course, goes back to childhood. I was a fussy eater whose father insisted that every plate be cleaned. I became adept at surreptitiously getting rid of food I found disgusting. While I had no appetite for vegetables, I had a big sweet tooth. But the foods I loved—cake, cookies, candy, ice cream sundaes—were prohibited by my father who wanted me slender. My cravings only increased. On the sly I consumed entire jars of Marshmallow Fluff.

At some level, perhaps, I'd begun equating food with risk, danger, punishment, deprivation, desire, hunger.

I went to Sunday school and met Eve and learned about the garden, the snake, and the apple. I must have filed all of that away for future use. Fruit, temptation, capitulation, expulsion, abandonment.

I saw the film, Tom Jones, and was mesmerized by that famous eating scene in which Tom and a buxom woman he meets at an inn sit at opposite ends of a long table and proceed to rip apart chicken legs and stuff their faces with juicy grapes, all the while gazing at each other with seduction in their eyes. Food and sex. Of course! 

So for me food has all kinds of connotations. I don't think I'm unique in that. Consider, too, how many of our social rituals are connected to food. Special dishes for special occasions. Romantic dinners. Repasts. And memories. Aren't there certain foods that call up memories, good or bad? And think of the sensory appeal of food; every part of the body is somehow involved. Finally, food intrigues me for its rich metaphorical potential. For example, in my poem, “The First Artichoke,” the artichoke becomes emblematic of a family with its many layers, its heart at the center, a heart that’s fragile. 

I'd like to add that while the title of my second book, What Feeds Us, invites the conclusion that I am a "food poet," in fact, that collection contains only nine poems that are overtly about food, and each one of those nine is really about something else. Look at my poem, "Linguini"—is it really about pasta?


It was always linguini between us. 
Linguini with white sauce, or 
red sauce, sauce with basil snatched
from the garden, oregano rubbed between 
our palms, a single bay leaf adrift amidst 
plum tomatoes. Linguini with meatballs, 
sausage, a side of brascioli. Like lovers 
trying positions, we enjoyed it every way 
we could—artichokes, mushrooms, little 
neck clams, mussels, and calamari—linguini 
twining and braiding us each to each.
Linguini knew of the kisses, the smooches,
the molti baci. It was never spaghetti
between us, not cappellini, nor farfalle,
vermicelli, pappardelle, fettucini, perciatelli, 
or even tagliarini. Linguini we stabbed, pitched, 
and twirled on forks, spun round and round 
on silver spoons. Long, smooth, and always 
al dente. In dark trattorias, we broke crusty panera, 
toasted each other—La dolce vita!—and sipped 
Amarone, wrapped ourselves in linguini, 
briskly boiled, lightly oiled, salted, and lavished 
with sauce. Bellissimo, paradisio, belle gente!
Linguini witnessed our slurping, pulling, and 
sucking, our unraveling and raveling, chins 
glistening, napkins tucked like bibs in collars,
linguini stuck to lips, hips, and bellies, cheeks 
flecked with formaggio—parmesan, romano, 
and shaved pecorino—strands of linguini flung 
around our necks like two fine silk scarves.

Read Diane's Poem "Bueberry": "Blueberry" by Diane Lockward
Read Diane's Poem "The First Artichoke": "The First Artichoke" by Diane Lockward
Click Here to Visit Diane's Website: Diane's Website    
Click Here to Visit Diane's Blog: Diane's Blog (Blogalicious)
Click Here to Order Diane's Books

Be sure to check back on Saturday for next week's prompt – food poems (Poetry Prompt #17).


  1. Recipe

    Last night you dreamed
    you were doing tricks
    on a bicycle
    near the Grand Canyon

    In my dream I gave you
    a bowl of chicken salad
    which you did not like

    We slept well together
    no longer strangers
    in my bed
    I took a day off from work

    Now I must remember
    to eat breakfast
    take out the garbage
    return phone calls

    Mixing the possibilities
    of your dreams
    with a good night's sleep
    & my same old chicken salad

  2. Great poem. What happens when we're left hungry ...

    Thanks for posting, Rix!

  3. What a great idea! Wonderful poems by Diane Lockward.
    I look forward to seeing your food poems prompt.
    Thanks for this great blog, Adele!

  4. Thanks, Bob F.

    Your support is much appreciated, and I'm so glad you enjoy the blog.

  5. "Linguini" is one of my favorite Diane poems. What a wonderfully written comment on writing food poems, both Diane's prose and poetry never fail to strike that place of Ahhhhh !

  6. Thanks for your comment, Linda. I agree about Diane's poetry & prose – (bee, bicycle, blueberry, pyromaniac ... always "Ahhhh!")