Say Cheese: Poems by Jen Karetnick

As a dining critic and poet for more than two decades, Jen Karetnick realized she had “fistfuls of poems on many food subjects, including cheese, wine, coffee, fruit, pasta, fish, eggs, and more.” The result was her full-length book Brie Season, published by White Violet Press. We’ve excerpted three delicious poems below.

Karetnick says she was inspired by G.K. Chesterton’s comment, “Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” Smoked, Swiss, soft, gooey—we agree. Let’s rhapsodize together on the delight brought by a perfect, ripened wedge.


A Note to GK Chesterton 

If it’s true, as you say, that we have been
“mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese,”

perhaps it’s because few are the poets
who would choose as a muse

a bloomy rind triple crème
coated with penicillium candidum

when great white herons miss the bay
and, with breeze-fuzzed feathers,

land instead to amuse toddlers by stalking
reef geckos not quite camouflaged

among the grasses growing like lies
on the sand-held bricks of driveways

where basketball nets hang – the tattered
tails of kites – or wax about calf rennet

when older boys wheel like hawks
on baseball diamonds and our daughters

run, more long-legged every day,
under phone wires lined with a dozen

observant ibis, or care about cheddaring
and cave aging when none of these

things are true, and the children we never
bore are regrets, difficult to census

yet kept warm in the nests
of plume-hunted, colonial egrets.


Double Gloucester with Chives and Onions

Oh, you’re sharp. A real British wit. Even at the right
party, your tone is affectation – crumbling bits of puce-

hued irony, melded with tense, chewy bon mots that grind
between the teeth. How I like you: pared. But most take

chunks, willing to risk slavish salivary glands and a pain
not unlike melancholy so that you last between mastications

long after you should have been washed away by a wine
reeking of rain clouds, bruised guava and violets.


Fibonacci’s Angels at Surfing Goat Dairy

My
angels
are covered
in ash, shaped into
convex volcanoes, crumble at
the glance of a blade
as dull as
cracker
crumbs

My
angels
are Swedish
hearts, caraway seeds
nicking the tang of cool and cream,
rudeness to the tooth
under the black
waxy
shield

My
angels
are ping-pong
balls, marinated
in macadamia nut oil
and smoked over shells,
then preserved
in sealed
glass

heads
without
eyes or hair,
Styrofoam angels
before you add the gauzy wings
and Popsicle sticks,
born of goats
balanced
on

waves,
angels
draped in grape
leaves, spiced with the zest
of Provence, touched by Buddha’s Hand,
Thai dragon chilies,
Malabar
pepper,
bone.

Previously published in Cobalt.

***

Jen Karetnick, aka “Mango Mama,” is the author of the cookbook, Mango (University Press of Miami, 2014), which won a 2015 Excellence in Culinary Writing Award from Les Dames d’Escoffier International, and co-author of From the Tip of My Tongue (Story Farm Press, 2015), with chef Cindy Hutson, which won the 2015 “Best Woman Cookbook USA” from the World Gourmand Awards. Karetnick also has two forthcoming books of poetry, American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, May 2016) and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016).

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Cheese Fish: December Reader Spotlight on Daniel Shapiro

Today we’re pleased to introduce Pittsburgh poet Daniel Shapiro, who will be kicking things off at our December reading, Six Impossible Things for Breakfast. We asked Shapiro to tell us a little bit about himself, Acquired Taste style.


Shapiro

Why do you write about food?

I haven’t written about food all that much, but I like to do it because it’s not a poetry topic that has been done to death. It’s not break-ups or trees. I typically seek out offbeat themes, odd juxtapositions of words, etc., and food lends itself to these pursuits.

What’s the strangest meal you’ve ever had?

The strangest meal I’ve ever had remains the cheese fish they used to serve at my middle school. Most likely, it was accompanied by the overcooked stalks of broccoli. It consisted of a square, fried piece of what was said to be fish, and the cheese–not unlike Velveeta–was apparently injected into it, a la creme filling into a Twinkie. My friends and I have turned cheese fish into a mythical monster, of sorts, and I hope to have a cheese fish poem available for the reading.

If someone invented a cocktail named The Daniel Shapiro, what would it include?

It would consist of the most expensive, most rare bourbon available and nothing else. It would be the Sasquatch of drinks, putting Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year to shame, causing riots, making people forget about the Tickle Me Elmo massacres of old.


You can read some of Shapiro’s poetry, and even get a taste of him reading it, at Hermeneutic Chaos. If you like the sound of his voice, or just want to hear more about the mythic cheese fish, join us next week at Classic Lines bookstore for Six Impossible Things for Breakfast.

Daniel Shapiro is the author of How the Potato Chip Was Invented (sunnyoutside press, 2013), a collection of celebrity-centered poems. He is a special education teacher who lives in Pittsburgh. He interviews other poets while subliminally promoting his own work at Little Myths.