Dissecting: a Poem and the Blog

While Andy has been busy this week thinking about being a blogger (see Andy’s Corner), my thoughts have been more focused on the poetic side of things.

Do English professors still ask you to “explicate” poems?  That term strikes terror in my heart, even 50+ years after the fact.  A quick internet search reveals that “dissect” is often used in today’s poetry line-by-line analysis – in which usually-yawning students are forced to participate.

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 12.31.17 PM

There’s lots of advice out there about better ways of inspiring students (or maybe even us adults?) to read and write poetry.  On Poets.org there are some especially quirky examples of approaches:

  • post poems in faculty bathroom stalls.
  • create an elegy based upon a NYTimes obituary.
  • at residential facilities for juvenile offenders have a guest poet read a poem in the morning and “at bedtime each night.”
  • gather poems to dedicate to a special person “with personal comments about that poem directed to that person.” (my mind is going crazy thinking of all the possibilities! 🙂
  • go around the community and hand out business cards with poems typed on them.
Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 12.44.53 PM

What poems might faculty members write here?

What got me started on all of this?  Well, I wanted to blog about tomatoes and I wanted a poem to include.  A quick search of the internet came up with a Louise Gluck poem.  For those of you who don’t focus on the poetry scene, an article in The Los Angeles Review of Books had this to say about Louise Gluck, who is in her 70’s – about my age,

Glück is as important and influential a poet as we have in America, a tagline whose strangeness deepens the more one reads her. She has won every major award; she served as Poet Laureate (how incongruous to think of this bleak, private poet in such a smiling, public role). Her work is an occasion for something like rapture among her admirers. 

I think Gluck’s poem about tomatoes may be brilliant, but I’m not sure.  No matter how hard I try, I’m not certain I understand the last few lines – as I “explicate” the poem in my I’m-no-English-professor manner.  Why does she talk about “the red leaves of the maple falling” when it’s a poem about tomatoes? Are the “vines” she mentions tomato vines?  Or is that another aside, like the maple reference?  Is she saying that the Divine doesn’t have a heart (which actually is kind of interesting to contemplate)?

“Louise Glück: The Ardent Understatement of Postconfessional Classicism” is a must-read for those of you who want to delve more deeply into explication.  It’s a chapter in this U of Missouri Press book.

But first read Gluck’s tomato poem “Vespers”:

Screen Shot 2019-07-15 at 4.13.03 PM

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 1.46.22 PM

A Black Krim tomato plant in our garden


Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 2.44.43 PM

A tomato hornworm which WAS in our garden.  Someone said that if you fry them they taste like fried green tomatoes.  Want to give it a try and report back?  Be sure to wash them first.

If your tomatoes haven’t been destroyed by the tomato hornworm or succumbed to a fungus with black spot or blight or whatever the heck is wrong with our Black Krim, here are a couple of great recipes, using tomatoes fresh off the vine.

Screen Shot 2019-07-24 at 1.05.48 PM

Garden Fresh Tomato and Basil Pasta

Garden Fresh Tomato and Basil Pasta

Obviously, the tastiest tomatoes are necessary for this to be a tasty dish.  Don’t even think about it in the middle of winter.  It’s super simple and can sit for a while, which makes it great for serving to guests.  Use it as the main dish for a light lunch or as a side dish for dinner.  Note: this is served at room temperature.

  •  2 c chopped tomatoes – use different colors and sizes, including cherry or SunGold)
  • 2 large tomatoes pureed in a blender or food processor (1 1/2 – 2 cups after pureeing)
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, slivered
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt – or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 T olive oil, divided (1 T mixed into the tomatoes and 2 T mixed with the pasta)
  • 1/2 lb angel hair pasta (or bow tie), cooked according to package directions and then tossed with the 2 T of olive oil
  • grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (optional)
  • some small whole basil leaves to garnish (optional)

Combine the chopped and pureed tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, chile flakes and 1 T of the olive oil and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

When ready to serve, place some pasta in individual serving bowls and top with the tomato mixture.  Add the cheese – and a few basil leaves, if you wish.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.
Screen Shot 2019-07-26 at 9.00.54 PM

Sopa de Lima with Corn Salsa

Sopa de Lima with Corn Salsa

Food & Wine’s cookbook Best of the Best, published in 2015, included this recipe – which just happens to come from our daughter, Sara, and the Tacolicious cookbook.  We’ve already given you the corn salsa recipe (a stand-alone version) – but add it to this Sopa de Lima and you get one of our favorite summer dishes.  Hands down.  And it makes brilliant use of those garden fresh tomatoes which you got at the Farmers’ Market – or grew yourself.  For an even-quicker version use rotisserie chicken from the market and prepared chicken broth.
  • 1 1/2 c fresh corn kernels (2 ears)
  • 1 1/2 c diced tomato
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 c finely diced red onion
  • 1 T finely chopped seeded jalapeno (optional – or to taste)
  • 1/4 c fresh lime juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 c chicken broth
  • 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano – or regular dried oregano
  • Steamed white rice, crumbled queso fresco (optional), diced avocado for serving
  • wedges of lime for serving
In a medium bowl, toss the corn with the tomato, cilantro, onion, jalapeno and 1 T of the lime juice.  Season the corn salsa with the salt and pepper and let stand for about 20 minutes.
In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil.  Add the chicken thighs and simmer over moderate heat until cooked through – about 15 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a bowl and let cool.  Shred the chicken.
Add the oregano and the remaining 3 T of lime juice to the soup and stir in the chicken.  Season with salt and pepper.  Ladle the soup over the rice and garnish with the corn salsa, queso fresco and avocado.  Serve with lime wedges.
Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.





    Good intentions.
    early Promise.
    Reality interposes.
    Early red leaves on the oak,
    yellow on the cottonwood
    join wilt, mildew and
    insect damage.
    There are many losses.
    No deity offers succor or protection.
    For that which I control,
    I am responsible.
    For the rest there is


      • ROBERT CARLETON says:

        Ha! ThanX! I was trying to respond to the question concerning the origin of the red leaves… Literary criticism always inspired combined terror and disbelief in me. If the critic is explaining some obscure or obsolete word, I’m OK. If he’s going on about the sublime interaction of the author’s ego with the inner feelings of the Dervish, I’m just shaking my head and wondering where to get coffee or a glass of red.

        I ain’t no poet and I know-it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: