Food, Glorious Food

The curse of second place has been broken, perhaps, because I’m honored to have been awarded first prize in Literal Latté’s Food Verse Contest for 2012. Better still, it was for three poems, not one, and all three (“Toothache,” “Five-Course Noir,” and “The French Have a Word for It”) are currently up in the Fall 2013 issue of this fine online publication. Please read them and comment, if the mood strikes you.

None of these poems is much more than two years old, and it’s always something of a relief when more recent work gets recognized instead of stuff I wrote twenty years ago in college. “Toothache” is the oldest, which I wrote as a personal challenge: I usually take forever to finish a poem, but at AWP 2011 in Washington, D.C., Redivider was running a contest in which they challenged attendees to enter poems that they wrote entirely during the three-day conference. I heard about it very late, so I had less than three hours in which to conceive and write something. I ran back to my room, scribbled out a draft, gave myself hand cramps copying it semi-legibly onto the half-sheet entry form, and ran back to the show floor and turned it in while the staff were breaking down the booth.

It didn’t win, but I felt very light to have completed a poem in only a few hours, and a very slightly edited version of that poem was one of the three chosen as joint winners by Literal Latté two years later. Considering that the last poem I wrote that won an award took me something like six years to wrestle together (and is only 18 lines long), I love that something I wrote so quickly was honored as well.

Five-Course Noir” came not long after that, and was inspired heavily by a panel at that same conference about Hitchcock’s movies and how they relate to poetry. The opening Borges quote was cited by someone on the panel, and I watched the movie D.O.A. soon after (not Hitchcock, but classic noir), and also took a good friend out for a very expensive and fabulous five-course dinner to celebrate her recent admission to graduate school. It all sort of glommed together into one of my favorite word-messes, apparently about food and murder? I couldn’t tell you for sure.

The French Have a Word for It” is by far the newest of the three, and describes quite plainly the joy of eating strawberries in the basement of a public library before leaving in a rainstorm. The bit about the pepper is mostly true, except that I was remembering it wrong; while there is a pepper-and-brown-sugar mix that is especially good with strawberries, and friends of mine brought me some from a particular town in France, apparently the pepper in the mixture is from another country entirely. Whatever. It tastes amazing.

Many thanks to Literal Latté for the enormous honor!