April 2015 marks the 17th National Poetry Month in Canada. The League of Canadian Poets is pleased to announce that the theme for National Poetry Month this year is Food and Poetry. Inspired by Rachel Rose’s inaugural speech as Vancouver’s Poet Laureate, the LCP wants to investigate the ways in which "food is personal, political, sensual and powerful." Food nourishes, grounds and connects us, much like poetry. Without food as without poetry, we go hungry.
In honour of this, Hazel Millar, LCP's Publicity and Media Manager for National Poetry Month, has assembled a recommended reading list of poetry books that explore food and our relationship to it.
Leak, by Kate Hargreaves
In Leak, bodies lose pieces and fall apart, while words slip out of place and letters drop away. Food is a major theme in this collection, both in the sense of "you are what you eat" but also with regard to what might be thought of as an obsessive monitoring of food intake. Trust me when I say that you will never think of ants, recipes, or open wounds, in quite the same way again.
Kapusta, by Erin Moure
Kapusta, the latest collection from Erin Moure, continues the line of thinking that began in Little Theatres (and then picked up again in O Resplandor and The Unmemntioable). Moure pays homage to her Ukrainian heritage and to the mighty cabbage, onion, potato, well, all the borscht ingredients, really. And look! There's that delectable cabbage on the cover!
Dogboy, by David McGimpsey
I could have easily included Hamburger Valley, California or Lardcake on this list, but the hot dog on the cover of this book is undeniably fun and quirky and gets all the hearts. McGimpsey definitely has cornered the poetic supermarket in terms of poems about food and pop culture.
THOU, by Aisha Sasha John
THOU is a powerful collection of two long, narrative poems that explore the social space that exists between the self and others. Food and the physical act of eating are an evocative and visceral part of the first long poem entitled "The Book of You." Here, the body's relationship to food becomes entangled in something beyond mere eating. The body responds in sometimes not very pleasurable ways—indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea—which in THOU become part of the physical tapestry.
Buffet World, by Donato Mancini
Spoiler alert: This humorous and thought provoking collection of poems about food, trade and capitalism, may ruin your appetite. These poems force you to consider what happens when we relate the "all you can eat" mentality to various aspects of our lives. The original artwork by Mancini that appears inside the book, as well as on front cover, is cheerfully grotesque and makes a bold statement about overindulgence and the food industry.
Alligator Pie, by Dennis Lee
A classic. I mean, what discerning Canadian doesn't like a nice slice of alligator pie. I know if I don't get some, I'm definitely gonna die. Of course, it would be remiss of me to not also give a shout out to Garbage Delight and The Ice Cream Store. I spent countless hours as a kid gobbling up Lee's poems and many more hours as an adult reading them aloud to my kids.
Good Meat, by Dani Couture
Good Meat is a collection of poems about food and the often complicated emotional relationships we have with the things we eat. We eat for nourishment and because food sustains us but we also eat for sheer voluptuous pleasure. Of all the books on my list, this is the most focused collection about food and eating.
Onion Man, by Kathryn Mockler
Onion Man is a series of linked poems told from the point of view of an 18-year-old girl working a summer job at a corn canning factory. In it, we meet a quiet immigrant named Onion Man who is in "a country where/ he doesn't speak/the language" and "every night he/peels an onion and eats/it as if it were an apple." A very powerful and intense collection from one of the most exciting and fresh voices in CanLit.
Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects, by Catherine Graham
This is a gorgeous collection and I had to include it mainly because of the poem "Peas & Barbies." After all, who didn't play with the food on their plate as a kid and get called out for it? Also, nipple is a pretty funny word.
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