Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Hungry Ear Poems of Food and Drink edited by Kevin Young

The Hungry Ear
Poems of Food & Drink
edited by Kevin Young
New York NY
Copyright © 2012 by Kevin Young
ISBN: 978-1-60819-551-0
Hardbound, 300 pages. $25

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

There are a lot of anthologies out there, a number of them about food.  Few, however,
top Kevin Young’s entry.  Young, an excellent poet in his own right, does a fine job of selecting gastronomical verse from a marvelous and diverse group of poets.

To name just a few, Mary Oliver, Seamus Heaney, Yusef Komunyakaa, Lucille Clifton, Elizabeth Bishop, Mark Doty, Billy Collins, Ted Kooser, Charles Reznikoff, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Matthew Dickman, Jane Hirschfield, Charles Simic, Frank O’Hara, W.B. Yeats, Philip Larkin, Charles Baudelaire, Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath and a nice selection of Young’s own poetry.

On the humorous side Roy Blount Jr.’s Song to Bacon brings it home:

Consumer groups have gone and taken
Some of the savor out of bacon.
Protein-per-penny in bacon they say,
Equals needles-per-square-inch of hay.
Well, I know, after cooking all
            (You also get a lot of lossage
            in life, romance, and country sausage.)
And I will vote for making it cheaper,
Wider, longer, leaner, deeper
But let’s not throw the baby, please
Out with the (visual rhyme here) grease.
There’s nothing crumbles like bacon still,
And I don’t think there ever will
Be anything, whate’er you use
For meat, that chews like bacon chews.
and also: I wish these groups would tell
Me whether they counted in the smell,
The smell of it cooking’s worth  $2.10 a pound.
And how bout the sound?

And then there are some tantalizing opening lines such as Hot by Craig Arnold: 

I’m cooking Thai—you bring the beer./The same order, although it’s been a year/
--friendships based on food are rarely stable./We should have left ours at the table

There is Jimmy Santiago Baca’s Green Chile:

I prefer red chile over my eggs
and potatoes for breakfast.

Adrienne Rich begins Peeling Onions thus:

Only to have a grief
equal to all these tears!

There’s not a sob in my chest.

And finally there is Howard Nemerov’s two-line tribute to Bacon & Eggs:

The chicken contributes,
But the pig gives his all.

These are just a few of the selections in this volume worth devouring. In often intriguing or delightful verse there is discourse on melons, berries, meat, vegetables, fruits – enough to fill a supermarket or your refrigerator and pantry.  It covers appetizers, main courses, desserts, celebrations, holidays and the seasons. The views of food and their relationship to us are there for our discovery.

If you are a fan of food – and who is not, even if dieting – then this book will whet your appetite and crave a snack.

Zvi A. Sesling is author of King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Street, 2010), Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva, 2011) and the soon to be published Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva). He is Editor of Muddy River Poetry Review and Bagel Bards Anthology #7.

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