“I give myself very good advice but I rarely take it.” –Alice in Wonderland
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin or someone else, but I’m not going to debate it here
I try very hard to make myself do new and different things but quite honestly, I usually like my rut. Other times not so much.
Over and over in this blog, I’ve written about how doing something different has helped me live and write more creatively—collaborate, draw, experiment with recipes. But usually I end up going back to the old ways, habits and things because they are the most comfortable—they have the worn-in buttprint right where it should be in the cushion.
I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson—a writing lesson but one which, it has become abundantly clear in the last months, also needs to be applied to my every day living.
Here’s the story: I had a poem published! This is exciting news because I’m not a poet. I don’t read poetry, I rarely enjoy it, I suffered through it as part of my English major in college, I avoided it by becoming a journalist. I have never written poetry for fun or profit in my entire life. The only poems I’ve written were the ones they made me write in school. And yes, I am a very, very bad poet.
So when Alimentum, the journal of “the literature of food,” announced its Menupoem contest to celebrate April’s National Poetry Month, I was just as surprised as anyone when the idea of writing a poem suddenly excited me. Menupoems started in the journal with poets writing poems based on a restaurant’s menu (really!) but have evolved to be poetic writing about cooking and eating. They are limited to just 12 lines.
I had a particular event in mind that I knew I couldn’t do justice with an article or short story but I did want to honor it in some way, and I thought a poem could be the way to do it.
So I wrote it. It actually wrote itself, quite quickly. The language, inferences, rhythms and clever ways of expressing meaning without using words, all came naturally when I just tried to write down the experience. So I figured it wasn’t very good—and not being a poetry scholar, I was not a good judge. I submitted it anyway because I would never have to hear the editors’ derisive laughter when they read it.
And it was chosen for publication!
So the poem ran and I told approximately three people. As excited as I was that the first poem I had written as an adult was actually deemed worthy to appear in Alimentum, for many more reasons that I don’t want to discuss here, I didn’t want to publicize the poem. It would probably just bring about lots of questions from people I know about when, where, and who was involved in the cooking lesson described, and it wasn’t the time to discuss it.
But now the time is right.
So here is the poem; you may think it sucks, but a worthy literary journal thinks it’s pretty good.
Learning to Make Mushroom Risotto
Plump round grains, first hard and taut,
Smooth firm mushrooms, then tender soft,
Sizzling bubbling fusing together.
You teach. I stir. We melt.
Feed me the first perfect mouthful:
All at once salty beefy hot
Bursting soft and earthy.
Aromas curl around us. I curl around you.
Two days later, alone,
Separate again with leftovers:
I will never lose that taste from my tongue.
So. The point is, if I hadn’t broken out of my usual writing patterns and tried to write a poem, it never would have been published. The poem is posted in several prominent locales at home and work to remind me of that. Doing something different can really make the difference.
And that’s why I need to start doing things differently in my personal life. But that’s ANOTHER blog post…