Eating Poetry

The mille-feuille pastry
of a freshly baked poem
crumbles at the ferocity
of the pen, fragile flakes fly,
dotting pages with sugar,
a sweetness that may turn stale
if we try to savour it for too long.

Kim M. Russell, 2017

1a3728bb04d4b9b4a18fa33db1420aa6.jpg 982×2,048 pixels:

Image found on Pinterest

I’m hosting the Weekend Mini Challenge at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads. My prompt for this week is entitled ‘Condense a Poem’.

Sometimes I look at a long poem and wonder if it would be as effective if it were condensed, reduced like a rich sauce. What is the essence of the poem? Would it be the same for another reader? How many perspectives or versions could there be?

I have chosen a long(-ish) poem by Pablo Neruda, which I have asked poets to condense to at least half the lines of the original, using their own words and any form they like, for example, a haiku, tanka or sonnet, while retaining what they think is the essence of the poem.

Sweetness, always

“Why such harsh machinery?
Why, to write down the stuff and people of everyday,
must poems be dressed up in gold,
or in old and fearful stone?

I want verses of felt or feather which scarcely weigh,
mild verses
with the intimacy of beds
where people have loved and dreamed.
I want poems stained
by hands and everydayness.

Verses of pastry which melt
into milk and sugar in the mouth,
air and water to drink,
the bites and kisses of love.
I long for eatable sonnets,
poems of honey and flour.

Vanity keeps prodding us
to lift ourselves skyward
or to make deep and useless
tunnels underground.
So we forget the joyous
love-needs of our bodies.
We forget about pastries.
We are not feeding the world.

In Madras a long time since,
I saw a sugary pyramid,
a tower of confectionery –
one level after another,
and in the construction, rubies,
and other blushing delights,
medieval and yellow.

Someone dirtied his hands
to cook up so much sweetness.

Brother poets from here
and there, from earth and sky,
from Medellin, from Veracruz,
Abyssinia, Antofagasta,
do you know the recipe for honeycombs?

Let’s forget about all that stone.

Let your poetry fill up
the equinoctial pastry shop
our mouths long to devour –
all the children’s mouths
and the poor adults’ also.
Don’t go on without seeing,
relishing, understanding
all these hearts of sugar.

Don’t be afraid of sweetness.

With or without us,
sweetness will go on living
and is infinitely alive,
forever being revived,
for it’s in a man’s mouth,
whether he’s eating or singing,
that sweetness has its place.”

by Pablo Neruda


27 thoughts on “Eating Poetry

  1. Well condensed! (Though I interpreted the original in a somewhat different way, to the effect that the sweetness will be lasting by virtue of being transformed.)

    Liked by 1 person

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