I’d found a poem in a recipe.
Earlier this year, before the pandemic, I went to a poetry meeting. Almost everyone else were women of a certain age, all poetry fans and some– good poets. (There were two other guys though one was the husband of a member and had just decided to stay rather than drive home and then back again.) I’d brought the recipe poem, typed up and printed on paper, to pass to the group. Everyone had their own poem to share.
There was also a young woman from the bookstore who glued the group together by being sweet and by saying things that brought the group back. Most of the members had known each other a longish time and could wander.This was in Florida.
I sat with my poem copies and I jotted down names around the circle, so I might remember them. It was decided to start with the lady on my right and then move around the circle in that direction, effectively making me last. This made me nervous. The poems had to be about “Housework.” This was a startling topic for me when I’d decided to try the poetry group. Why housework? Well, they had brainstormed possible topics two years ago and this month got around to that one. I had just happened to pick the Housework meeting. That’s why I brought in the recipe. It was what I could come up with.
All the poems selected were read aloud in turn and briefly discussed. Most were quite good, one was a Nikki Giovanni, the one where she wants her lover to cook for her. That was the only other one that had to do specifically with cooking.
When it came to my turn I read first William Carlos Williams’s short poem about eating the plums. This was an example of a found poem, because I know that not everyone interested in writing knows what a found poem means, basically something that you didn’t write yourself but discovered or created out of someone else’s writing. I like finding them in prose or anywhere. I read aloud the William Carlos Williams, and they all knew what I was getting at. Then I read aloud Syrup of Violets (an actual recipe from the 1600s).
SYRUP OF VIOLETS
Take the deepest and best coloured Violets,
And make some Spring water boyling hot,
And put the flowers into a silver Tankard
Or into a new Pipkin with a cover,
Then put in the water upon the flowers,
Till it be as thick as you can well stir it about,
And then set it upon hot Embers,
To keep it hot six hours,
But be sure it do not boyl,
And set it by until It is cold,
And then squeeze out the Flowers
And to every pint of this Liquor
Put two pound and a half right Brazil Sugar
And set it upon the Fire,
And when it is scalding hot,
And when the scum does rise,
Take it off and scum it and set it by.
And when cold,
Bottle it and stop it close,
And keep it for your use.