Monday, October 29, 2007

Of All the Meals I Had Before by Doug Holder

Of All the Meals I Had Before;
Poems About Food and Eating
By Doug Holder
25 page chapbook at $7.00
Cerven√° Barva Press
P.O. Box 440357
W. Somerville MA 02144-3222

Review by Laurel Johnson

This chapbook of poetry is savory fare from a serious poet, with a side order of whimsy and social commentary. An eclectic range of topics delight and intrigue here, everything from the fears of an anorexic woman to cannibalism to the guilty pleasure of Milk Duds and the pornographic rotation of rotisserie chickens. Whatever the topic, Doug Holder reveals through words the joy, loneliness, and sensuality of eating.

“Eating Out” is aesthetically pleasing to the senses. Readers can see and anticipate the meal:

My fork
its silver set off
by the muted light
the tender white flesh
the brittle ribs
that preen
with their offerings.

Holder considers his mother eating alone in “Portrait of My Mother During Her Solitary Meal.” The days of arguing with her late husband are over. Now, all she has left is food, and silence:

And the photos of him
held tenuously by a cheap magnet
on the refrigerator door
an inanimate taunt
a ridiculous happy, frozen
moment of time --
She is now
a prisoner of
deadened silence…

“At Benson’s Deli” is Holder’s powerful reminiscence of the days his undemonstrative father took his sons to the deli for lunch. Relationships thrived there, over hot dogs, knishes, and Doctor Brown’s fizzing vanilla creams:

And for me
those afternoons
that warm, nostalgic
ancient hue
is all that
rings true.

“Fat Ladies of the Matinee” is a fine mix of humorous and sad, a brilliant word picture of what it means to be fat in a world that values only the lean and beautiful among us:

Floating toward corners
graceful only in the dark
like the slow
clandestine drift of clouds
Lofting their billowing
dresses like pitch tents
on cushioned seats.
Positioning themselves
to the side of
flickering projector light.
Corpulent, spectral figures
munching in their hungry seclusion
savoring the buttery kernels
shrouded from the thinly
veiled looks of disgust.

These examples of Holder’s work reveal a poet who crafts each poem carefully. He says exactly what he means in few words, but each word and line communicates, reveals, speaks clearly to readers. If you haven’t discovered Doug Holder’s poetry yet, I recommend you start with this chapbook.

Review by Laurel Johnson for Midwest Book Review

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:22 PM


    In case I haven't mentioned it yet, I love this book. The poem in which the roasted chickens are personified is one of the many whimsical, bizarre, profound moments in the collection that make me smile. The texture, taste, and look of food come through.