Tag Archives: tomato and basil pasta

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.

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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.
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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”:

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A Black Krim tomato plant in our garden


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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.

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