New Recruits Episode 16: Brittany Fisch Reads Hoa Nguyen

Welcome back to New Recruits! As always, if it’s your first time here, check out the description in Episode 1 for more information about how this series works.

Brittany Fisch and I have been friends since middle school. There’s a group of us actually, six ladies who survived a rocky Hebrew school experience and are probably stronger because of it. I am constantly amazed that we aren’t twelve anymore. My friends are all crazy impressive and Brittany is no exception. She’s 23 and she’s a lawyer working at a swanky downtown firm. She’s also lovely and brilliant and gorgeous and I love her. Okay, I’m going to stop bragging about my cool friend now so we can talk about poetry.

I picked up Hoa Nguyen‘s newest title, Violet Energy Ingots, at Knife Fork Book in Kensington Market (by the way, if you haven’t been there yet, go stand in the store and look at all the pretty books and shake hands with Kirby because he’s delightful). The book opens with an epigraph by Jack Spicer, so obviously I loved it before I even got to the first poem, and then once I got into it I loved it even more. I gave Brittany two of my favourite poems from the book to choose from and she chose this one. She told me it was hard to choose because she liked them both, and damn Brit, I feel you. It was hard to choose just two to send to her. So here’s Brittany Fisch reading “Dear Love Not As One.”

And if I thought I loved this poem before, Brittany’s reading of it just slayed me. I am slain.

Q & A

What was your first impression of the poem?

The harsh and pleasant word choices created a very nice balance.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“The tomatoes look like one-pound / ox hearts and impossible / you with soft strong arms (gift)”

Why?

It expresses both the intense passion and warmth felt towards his/her loved one. 

What does this poem make you think of?

 Romance by/and a non-literal fire

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

 I acknowledge the possibility that I do not understand any of it.

Would you like to understand them?

Definitely

Do you have any questions for the poet?

What was your inspiration?

 

 


Brittany Fisch is a 23 year old lawyer-to-be who likes soccer, art, movie-watching and spending time with friends and family (preferably with food).

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New Recruits Episode 15: Nadine Rapps Reads John Ashbery

If you’re new here, check out Episode 1 for more information about how this series works.

Nadine Rapps is my mother’s friend. For most of my childhood, my family and Nadine’s family would spend a week in the summer at a cottage resort called “Silver Eagle.” The cabins were run down and there was a terrifying pinball machine in the rec room and I’m pretty sure the owner was anti-Semitic, but I loved it more than Disney World.

I have a vague memory of playing Scrabble with Nadine and her son in cottage 12 at Silver Eagle. She played the word “spur” and went to check the dictionary to make sure she had the correct spelling. She said something like “what is a spur anyway? Something for horses?” and her son said, “It’s the thing the man uses to make a baby.” Sorry Josh, that story needed to be told on the internet. It was absolutely necessary.

Nadine was also part of the family band that brought us such hits as “Honey on Toast” and “The Statue Game.” You’re welcome Canadians who remember this.

Anyway, I knew I had to choose a poem for Nadine that had trees in it. She likes trees. So, John Ashbery has made it into my little blog series. He can add “New Recruits Feature” to his long list of accolades and hopefully that will console him if he never wins the Nobel. Ashbery is also the first American to grace this website. There’s another one coming. Stay tuned.

So here’s Nadine reading John Ashbery’s “Some Trees“:

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

I really appreciate how he likened the characteristics of trees to the human spirit, because that is something I have been reading and reflecting on for some time.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“That their merely being there/ Means something; that soon/ We may touch, love, explain.”

Why?

I believe that trees in their very existence have meaning and purpose, especially a loving energy.

What does this poem make you think of?

It takes me back to my fond memories of being in the forests of Northern Ontario in the summer time.

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

comeliness, reticence

Would you like to understand them?

Yes

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

I have yet to encounter a poem like this before. I’m very fascinated by the mechanics of its phrasing.

Does this poem remind you of any other piece of art or media?

It reminds me of the paintings by the Group of Seven at the McMichael Art Gallery.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Do you have a deep connection to nature and trees?


Nadine Rapps is interested in yoga, meditation, journaling, cooking, and nature. She is an interior designer. She feels a great connection to nature, especially trees. When she is in a forest of trees, she finds that they are very healing and full of nourishment.

New Recruits Episode 14: Mari Lise Stonehouse Reads Sharon Thesen

Welcome back to New Recruits! If you’re new to this series, check out the description back in Episode 1 for more information about how it works.

For all four years of my undergrad at U of T, I spent Fridays and Saturdays working at Clay Design, a pottery studio and gallery at the corner of Harbord and Brunswick. I am not a potter. My job involved dumping buckets of old clay into other buckets of old clay, climbing up windows, laundering aprons, and a whole lot of dusting. So, what kept me coming back to a messy, minimum wage, hour away (once I left residence) job? Mari Lise Stonehouse, Phillis McCulloch, and Dennise Buckley. These three women are all incredible artists and have managed to run a successful business for over 35 years.

Mari Lise makes plates, bowls, mugs, vases, and decorative pears. She taught me a lot over four years, like how to put up Christmas lights, how to “balance the books”, how to appreciate flowers, and how to be a feminist.

In my first year of undergrad, as a recent export of the suburbs, my ideas about feminism were mostly shaped by the internet. I learned that it’s hard to maintain your adolescent cynicism when a six foot tall woman who beats clay into submission for a living makes feminism look so damn cool.

Sharon Thesen and Mari Lise Stonehouse are a match made in heaven, even if they don’t know it yet. I could have easily given Mari Lise some of Thesen’s more recent or more eco-focused work, which I’m sure she would have enjoyed just as much as the poem you’re about to hear her read. But for right now, for this moment, it had to be this poem.

So here’s Mari Lise, my former boss and current friend/role model, reading “Biography of a Woman” from Thesen’s 1995 collection, Aurora:

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

I loved the poem right away. Then I was embarrassed because I felt the poem was about me.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“forced to sew/ starlight into shirts enough/ for an army”

Why?

It is not enough to sew starlight into shirts? It has to be for an army? I love the nonsensical fairy tale task. Also so feminine. No boulders being pushed up the hill here. Sewing starlight and sorting ten tons of millet seed.

What does this poem make you think of?

The poem made me think of that half awake time when you are trying to pull yourself out of a dream. I see the heroine twisted in bedsheets.

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

I think I like poems, but in fact I find them frustrating and I never go out of my way to read them. This poem made me laugh and then laugh at myself. She was so intelligent! It is always about me! Maybe I liked the poem because it touched on that time in a young woman’s life when she is looking for a story book life and is overwhelmed by the mundane tasks and the confusion of having her suitors be swans.

Does this poem remind you of any other piece of art or media?

The poem made me think of nursery rhymes and traditional children’s stories, like Rapunzel and Cinderella. The painting of Leda and the Swan.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

No. I would like to hug her and dance around.


Mari Lise Stonehouse is interested in gardening and pottery. Newly interested in politics. 65yrs old. Her son introduced her to his girlfriend’s Russian parents as an Old Hippie.

New Recruits Episode 13: Devorah Joseph Reads Christine McNair

Welcome back to New Recruits! For more information about this series, check out the description in Episode 1.

Devorah Joseph and I have been friends from the moment we were forced into a canoe with another girl who was very angry about the whole situation (and I mean, rightly so, nobody should be forced to canoe if they don’t want to). This incident was part of a team building field trip at the beginning of high school. The other girl started yelling at us because we weren’t paddling well enough and Devorah and I looked at each other and thought, we’re going to be friends forever. We were basically characters in an Alice Munro story. At this point, we’ve shared so many secrets that downgrading to anything less than BFFs would be a liability.

I gave Devorah Christine McNair’s poem “The State We’re In” because it’s a good poem; but after re-reading it with Devorah in mind, I was struck by how well it echoes our friendship. In the poem, secrets and stories end up “stitched into lawn care” and swallowed by house sounds. I like the idea of secrets tied to place, the fixed locality of stories. Some of ours are in lawns too.

So here’s Devorah reading “The State We’re In” from Christine McNair’s debut collection, ConflictMcNair’s second book, Charm, is forthcoming from BookThug in June 2017.

 

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

There are negative things that need to go.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“of falling away maps go”

Why?

It sounds very artistic and flows nice, and rhymes, and it talks about getting rid of rules and following strict directions.. I think.

What does this poem make you think of?

It makes me think of being adventurous and not following rules.

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

Tarmac

Would you like to understand them?

Yes

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

I don’t really read poems, and have never encountered one like this before.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

What inspired you to write this poem? If you had to describe the take away point of the poem in one sentence, what would that be?*

* “For me, every poem has a texture of sound which is at least as important to me as the ‘argument.’ This is not to minimize ‘statement.’ But it does annoy me when students, prompted by the approach of their teacher, ask, ‘What is the poet trying to say?’ It implies that the poet is some sort of verbal cripple who can’t quite ‘say’ what he ‘means’ and has to resort to a lot of round-the-mulberry-bush, thereby putting the student to a great deal of trouble extracting his ‘meaning,’ like a prize out of a box of Cracker Jacks.”

—Margaret Atwood in a 1978 interview in the New York Times

I get this question a lot from students and from poetry newbs and always refer back to this Atwood quote. Babe, if she could say it in one sentence, the poem would be one sentence long. So I’m going to throw it back at you. What is the “take away point” of the poem for you?

umm… to throw away the key and take an adventure.


Devorah Joseph is in the second year of her MSW at the University of Toronto. She is 24 and she loves dogs.

New Recruits Episode 12: Aisha Muslim Reads Sachiko Murakami

A new week, a new New Recruits episode. If it’s your first time here, check out Episode 1 for a description of how this series works.

Aisha and I shovelled shit in a barn together for a lot of years. She rode this beautiful white gelding named Leo and I rode a spotty, pudgy quarter horse named Jack. We’ve had many intense discussions in piles of hay and what would be too many adventures to remember if we hadn’t documented most of them on digital cameras:

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(Aisha and me in 2007. We were too young to drive the Gator outside, but apparently through the barn was fine.)

Now Aisha is a badass nurse and Muay Thai fighter and it’s been a long time since either of us has been on a horse.

Sachiko Murakami’s book Get Me Out of Here is “an experiment in crowdsourced inspiration.” Its back cover explains, “Why is it so difficult to stay in the present moment? Poet Sachiko Murakami asked this question in an open call on the internet, and in airports across the globe, from YVR (Vancouver) to RKV (Reykjavik), people in transit stopped to note in only one sentence their impressions of places, events and things.”

Here’s Aisha reading the poem inspired by the one sentence impression:

My lawyer wife calling “frantic girl” about bail: “you can tell me what is actually true it’s private,” “break and enter, burglary tool, secrets on your computer.”

Gary Barwin, YTZ-YTM

 

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

I liked it. It felt rebellious in nature, as though the poet was trying to prove someone wrong and was adamant that the other person’s position was incorrect.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“Your own shitty, familiar secrets”

Why?

It reminds me that we all have our own demons and we should not judge others for theirs.

What does this poem make you think of?

Being a teenager and being misunderstood (or feeling misunderstood) and trying very hard to make people hear me.

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

I haven’t encountered a poem that was so angrily worded before. Most poems I have read (although I haven’t read read many) have been softer and less accusatory. I enjoyed this.

Does this poem remind you of any other piece of art or media?

It reminded me of the Girl on the Train -specifically the line “the frantic girl who articulates….”

Do you have any questions for the poet?

No


Aisha Muslim is a 23 year old nursing student, graduating this year. She is a competitive Muay Thai fighter. She is Muslim. She has a sister and two cats.

New Recruits Episode 11: Nancy Liu Reads Jamie Sharpe

Welcome back to New Recruits! If it’s your first time here, check out Episode 1 for a full description of the series.

Way back in Episode 1, I promised a Jamie Sharpe episode. Now that day is here. Full disclosure, Nancy is not really a poetry newb. We took a writer’s craft class together in high school and she’s been known to read a poem or two now and then. Nancy is a renaissance woman; she plays piano and guitar, she sings beautifully, draws cool pictures, cuts up dead bodies, cultures bacteria, does stuff with yeast that I don’t understand… see how I just stuck “cuts up dead bodies” in the middle there… yeah, she did that for a job.

Last summer, Jamie Sharpe sent me his book Animal Husbandry Today. I had the book with me once when Nancy and I met for frozen yogurt. I showed her some of my favourite poems in the book (“Cirrhosis” and “When Nancy Reagan Recommends the Crab Salad”) and one that I thought she’d particularly like because of her musical background. She did like it, and now she’s going to re-read it for you all.

Here’s Nancy Liu reading “Interview Questions for Nils Luzak, Classical Pianist”:

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

The nature of inquisition of this poem seeks no answers. It already contains a story inviting us, the readers, to inquire and wonder at what lies behind them. The poem is really quite lyrical onto itself. It incites us in, attacks our “paternal” relations and crescendos us into the afterlife and gently lulls us, rallentandoing back to the musings of an uneased ear.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“Are you Rachmaninoffing / hell from those helpless pedals?”

Why?

The technical difficulties of a Rachmaninoff piece are matched only by their passionate intensity. As a Romantic era composer, you better be raising some hell as you play. Hawt diggity. I love the use of his name as symbolisation of his style then turning it into a verb. It so accurately describes the bold and fiery sensation of his pieces. It’s a challenge to the reader and to the player within the poem. Are you doing justice? Have you done enough to deserve the afterlife served you?

What does this poem make you think of?

That either Nils or the author has daddy issues. Or deep questions of the Christian paternal figure of what awaits them beyond. Music is that veil separating us from permanent silence. Do we rage?

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

Nils Luzak. Is there a significance to the name that I’ve missed? What is the etymology? Also, is he a real pianist???

Would you like to understand them?

Yes! It may enrich or even completely change my understanding of the poem!

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

I may have encountered something similar before, but I’d definitely need to read some more poetry to give a source. It’s been too long a time!!! Poetry takes many forms. As for how this poem fits into my conception of poetry, it’s not a classic poem, but it’s definitely poetic. :3

Does this poem remind you of any other piece of art or media?

A little bit of the Dadaist movement in art. Mostly the discontent and the rejection of the divine authority (authoritarian political stance). Also a bit of the irrational peeks through. We are introduced to the poem with wild questions and in the last line, we are left questioning the abject sanity of our interviewer.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Allegro your father eh? My my!

Nancy Liu is a traveller of 11 countries, hobbyist of 13 instruments, past autopsist, current graduate student of neuroscience, and secretly 64 on the inside.

New Recruits Episode 10: Brad Tollman Reads Kathryn Mockler

We have entered the double digits! Check out the description way back in Episode 1 for more information about how this series works.

Brad Tollman is my boyfriend’s good friend from high school whom I have claimed as my own friend. The first time we met was in 2011 when the three of us went out to see a terrible movie. Brad dropped me and Ariel off at my house afterward and then somehow thought we were lost and started mass panic. Weird times. Since then, Brad and I have had many thoughtful discussions about art and music and poetry. He’s been a big supporter of my work and an all around lovely dude. Brad and I both love Joni Mitchell’s music, which is why I chose Kathryn Mockler’s “You Look Like a Puppet” for him to read (also because it’s a cool poem). In the notes at the back of her book The Purpose Pitch, Mockler explains that the poem is “comprised of scrambled lines from Joni Mitchell’s  June 2013 Q interview.”

Brad also has ADHD and at no time has that been more apparent to me than in his answers to the questions below— which were delicious to read because of how he manages to allow certain afterthoughts to expand and contract within each response. Somehow it’s a really good example of non-linear writing and a perfect companion to the “scrambled lines” of Mockler’s poem.

Here’s Brad reading “You Look Like a Puppet” (twice— with several expressive interjections):

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

Poetry always really weirds me out? Not always. Not weirds me, per se. But I have a learning disability, so the information from text is always a little lost on me if it isn’t so very explicit. I don’t absorb any of it the first time. I laughed at the German bit though.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

The second read though.. I dunno it seemed profound in a way? In a slight way. I don’t recall the line, something to do with being born the week of death, yeah? And it seemed almost echoed in a way by the last line of the block, something about smokes. Seemed almost suicidal to me, but ironic because of the question of it all. Ironic? I think ironic. The part about pissing where you eat is gross.

Why?

It’s just a really gross thing to say. Maybe in a Frank Zappa kind of way it’s a little bit funny? There’s that word again, ironic. Zappa was good at that sort of thing, though. This just seems vulgar for vulgarity’s sake (but I shouldn’t think that’s quite so, or the intent).

What does this poem make you think of?

I forgot you told me the Joni Mitchell fact, that it was lifted from something to do with her? I thought maybe inspired by her music at the time when you mentioned it to me, but it turns out it was from a Q magazine interview. At any rate, it certainly didn’t remind me of her the first time I read it. It really didn’t make me think of anything. Again, that disconnect when I read and gleaning information. Especially when all the ideas here are so chalky and blocky.

The second time through I had Joni in mind, it made me think a bit of when she was coming up in Toronto in the 60s, but only when the women’s home thing was mentioned. Beyond that… I’m not really sure. There were some very good moments within the poem but I only thought of the interest of it’s ideas and juxtapositions and remarks and so on.

—- Just remembered, it did actually remind me of a few musings I’ve written to myself. I’ve gotten into the habit of having full conversations with myself, I find I can get to the root of something if I can talk it out loud, which I’ve always done, but more so now then before they have been philosophical debates and major life choices (but aren’t all choices a life choice? I wonder). Anyway, it reminded me at times… Rather it felt comfortable and/or fluid to read at times like it’s been fluid to talk with myself.

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

None that popped out at the time, or any I can remember. I’m on my phone typing this and I’m afraid if I back out of this webpage I’ll lose everything I’ve typed, so let’s go with my gut on this one. No.

Would you like to understand them?

Yes, I would love to (genuinely meant and not sarcastic)

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

I’ve read a few poems before. I dunno, this is a weird question, maybe. I never know what to expect from poetry because it’s all different to me, I’m not quite familiar enough to pick up on the nuances of style, but I’m familiar enough with art to recognize that there is certainly a style to be nuanced. So maybe it’s exactly different from what I would have expected? But then it’s kind of like what Syndrome from The Incredibles said, “once everyone is a Super..! No one will be.” I think maybe that works both ways, existentially. If nothing matters, then by that token everything matters. And if everything matters, so does nothing.

Does this poem remind you of any other piece of art or media?

Disney’s, “The Incredibles,” clearly, lol.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Why Joni Mitchell? Why specifically that interview? Why an interview at all? Why, why, why, I guess. Thanks 😉

Brad Tollman is a musician and an artist. He likes to think so, at least. He works at a Starbucks and kind of enjoys it. The people are cool. The morning shifts are stressful. He’s 25 in April and that scares him a little bit. He hasn’t been recognizing himself in the mirror lately. He needs a haircut and a shave.

New Recruits Episode 9: Norm Solomon Reads Stuart Ross

Check out Episode 1 for info about how this series works.

My grandfather, Norm Solomon, taught me all the dirty limericks I know. When we were younger, my brothers and I used to decorate his bald head with markers and candy and ornaments of all sorts after he fell asleep on our hardwood floor. After my friend Brad (who will read in an upcoming episode) met my grandfather for the first time, he said, “It’s ironic that your grandfather’s name is Norm because he’s definitely not normal.” Norm Solomon is a vodka drinking, kishka barbecuing, joke cracking crooner. Crooner because he has an excellent Sinatra-esque singing voice, and also, as you’ll soon discover, a wonderful reading voice. I knew I wanted to have my grandfather read Stuart Ross. Stuart’s poetry is surreal and funny and not normal in the most wonderful way. When I gave my grandfather a poem called “Beans” from Stuart’s book A Hamburger in a Gallery, I thought it would be a good fit because it’s an absurd little piece and because my grandfather taught me every variation of the “musical fruit” rhyme in existence. So his answers to the questions below surprised me a little. I wasn’t expecting him to find this poem to be particularly dark or depressing. But that’s what I love about this series. I’m learning so much about the interpretability of poetry and how different words and moods and images stand out to different people. So  here’s my grandfather reading “Beans”:

 

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

Sadness and confusion 

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“He laughed because an onion made him cry”

Why?

I never experienced laughing when crying. What a great use for an onion.

What does this poem make you think of?

Despair and coldness

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

CATCHING onion.

Would you like to understand them?

Yes

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

Yes, from you kind of. Not really.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Why was it written?


Norm Solomon is 75. He loves traveling and contemporary singers. He also enjoys looking after people in need.

New Recruits Episode 8: Becky LaRue Reads Alice Burdick

Welcome to 8th episode of New Recruits! If you’re new here, check out Episode 1 for more information about how this thing works.

Becky was one of my most brilliant 12th grade students (now she’s just my brilliant friend). Also, Becky is not her real name— she asked me if she could participate in this series anonymously. I teach English in the summer at a private school in Thornhill, Ontario. Becky was the first student in my class on the first day of school this past July. She got to class before I did and I spotted her reading a heavily annotated (sticky notes and pencil marks galore) copy of Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms. By the end of the semester, after I told her that absolutely you’re allowed to swear in poems, she read her own poem, full of “fuck”s, out loud in front of the whole class. Maybe one of my proudest moments as a teacher. I mean, I was equally proud of the essay she wrote on the Freudian resonances in Hamlet, but poems are more fun.

Have you read Alice Burdick’s Book of Short SentencesBecause this book had me actually yelling out loud to nobody in my empty apartment. Specifically the second last poem in the book. I don’t even want to spoil it, spoil the surprise, but its content and placement had me yelling at nothing and oh my god you have to read it. But read the whole book because it works in sequence and then you get to the end and you’re alone in your apartment yelling “What the fuck, Alice? Where did that come from?” to nobody in particular in the best way possible.

I didn’t give Becky that poem. I gave her “Escaping the landscape,” from the middle of the book. Here she is reading it:

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

I thought that the poem really captured the mind of a person who seemed to be bored with the same people he aquatints himself with (both romantically and family/friend wise) and wants to escape the cycle of trite conversations and people.

You refer to the speaker as “he,” did you know that this poem was written by a woman but you perceived the character as male? Or did you just assume the poem was written by a man?

I perceived the character as male: from my observations, most males tend to group emotions into happiness or sadness while most females (I say most because I’m dense to emotions as well), can better categorize their feelings and identify other feelings and it’s less black and white.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“Yo-yo describes you, a wide arc / of changeable wide smiles and disintegration.”

Why?

I too feel that people these days don’t dive deep into their emotions and they only show two extreme emotions: extreme happiness and extreme sadness. It allows themselves to discover what they’re really feeling and if they show those two emotions, no one will question them and they are left to themselves.

What does this poem make you think of?

This poem makes me think of myself before I discovered that I too have different emotions. Before November 16 (what I will refer to as my Climax), I only displayed two emotions: happiness and an occasional sadness. Other than that, I didn’t dig deep into my emotions and suppressed all other emotions (which included the suppression of crippling anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts – all later discovered after a series of unfortunate events). This poem of this voice explaining how the landscape blends into the background, it reminded me how I blended my emotions into a black and white area of happiness and sadness (whereas I now know that that is hardly the truth).

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

I have never encountered a poem like this before (even though I love poetry, I don’t dedicate as much time as I’d like to reading it).

Do you have any questions for the poet?

I would like to know if the poet is pondering if other people are blending into the background or has she been the one blending and is criticizing herself.


Becky LaRue is the alias of an 18 year old lady who loves reading. She has recently applied to many universities and she does her best to be happy.

New Recruits Episode 7: Gail Morgenstern Reads David McGimpsey

Episode 7 already? Well, If you’ve missed the previous six, you can figure out what this is all about by reading the description in Episode 1.

Gail is my mother’s friend. She and my mom and a couple of other ladies who have all known each other since high school have made a habit of going out for dinner whenever one of them has a birthday. Gail references one of these dinners in her Q&A so I thought I’d tell you about that up here, on the top half of the page, before you go down to the bottom half. This past summer, Gail and my mother and myself and a few of my friends in my MA program went to my cottage in Halliburton. I did all the cooking because, well I like cooking. Gail is vegan so she opted out of my teriyaki salmon and caprese salad in favour of… lettuce. Ok, that was a lame attempt at a segue into the title of the featured poem. She ate more than lettuce. Here she is reading David McGimpsey’s poem “Lettuce” from his book Asbestos Heights.

David, if you’re reading this, before you read the Q&A you should know that she did choose this poem from a selection of three poems all by different poets, so, I think she did like it. I mean, she liked it enough to pick it.

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

At first I didn’t particularly like the poem but on a second read I found it humorous and interesting. I thought it was inventive to compare college to iceberg lettuce.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

‘blooming in beds of bacon and mayonnaise’

Why?

I found the image of heads of lettuce growing in fattening, cholesterol-laden bacon and mayo as being very vivid and repellent. It also made me think of the iceberg lettuce salad your mother loves to order at The Keg.

What does this poem make you think of?

It made me think of going to college for the first time as well as how much I dislike iceberg lettuce. I find iceberg to be the most useless type of lettuce; it’s like eating water.

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

Yes, I don’t know what stamen or anther means.

Would you like to understand them?

Yes, I guess I could check the dictionary.

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

Yes, this poem isn’t like any I have experienced. I don’t have a lot of experience with poems as I mostly read them in high school and then never read poems again after finishing school.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

What made you think of writing a poem using the subject of iceberg lettuce?


Gail Morgenstern is a fifty-something mother and analyst working for a large bank in the investigative services department. She enjoys kickboxing, running and weight lifting. She eats a plant-based diet and has very strong opinions about meat and dairy.