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Release date: 12/28/2004.
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The Poetry of Soup

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W. H. von Dreele's "Yushchenko, Poisoned":

It's all so Borgia! Was it Vlad
Or someone closer to the bod?
Dioxin: Was it eyedropped in
The chicken soup, or did some kin
(In Italy, kin were the worst)
Perform the deed, cackled, then cursed?
Whatever, Putin's rep's so worn,
He shakes like shocked merino, shorn.
(from 12/31/04 National Review, on the Ukrainian election)

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen's "Furies" (1919-2004), translator Richard Zenith

Banished from sin and the sacred
Now they inhabit the humble intimacy
Of daily life. They are
The leaky faucet the late bus
The soup that boils over
The lost pen the vacuum that doesn’t vacuum
The taxi that doesn’t come the mislaid receipt
Shoving pushing waiting
Bureaucratic madness

Without shouting or staring
Without bristly serpent hair
With the meticulous hands of the day-to-day
They undo us

They’re the peculiar wonder of the modern world
Faceless and maskless
Nameless and breathless
The thousand-headed hydras of efficiency gone haywire

They no longer pursue desecrators and parricides
They prefer innocent victims
Who did nothing to provoke them
Thanks to them the day loses its smooth expanses
Its juice of ripe fruits
Its fragrance of flowers
Its high-sea passion
And time is transformed
Into toil and the rush
Against time

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), translator Lucien Stryk:

Under the cherry-
blossom soup,
blossom salad.

Günter Grass, written in 1977 about when he was wounded as a tank gunner of the German Wehrmacht sent to meet the Red Army in 1945:

I was standing at the edge
of the road to Spremberg
and eating peas with a spoon
with my seventeen years
and a mess tin in my hand
similar to the one my granddaughter L has on a trip with the Scouts
a grenade exploded
the soup spilt
but I got away
only a little scratched
but happy.

Stan Flouride ©1994, The San Francisco Slow-Food Society, "Tempus Stato":

On Olympus Epicurius
We'd live outside of time,
Where hastiness is mortal sin,
And gulping is a crime.

T'would be, could we,
Dine at geologic pace,
Every bite an eon savored,
An epoch, every taste.

Whole lands before us would appear
To be eroded piece-by-piece,
'Til at last with sourdough,
We sop up the very least.

Without sorrow, without pity,
We'd laugh at those below,
Who barely stop to breathe, less eat,
As they scurry to and fro.

Every sip of wine, millenia,
A century, 'tween each plate.
T'would it be, should we,
To dine at glacial rate.

Like Culinary Colossae,
We'll live outside of time,
Where every pleasure lasts a day
And impatience is a crime.

Garrison Keillor, American humorist, in "I am a Lutheran":

We've got chow mein noodles on tuna hot dish
And Jello with cottage cheese,
And chocolate bars and banana cream pie,
No wonder we're on our knees.
This is the church where we sing Amen
At the end of every song.
The coffee pot is always on
Cause the meetings are three hours long.
The blessed tie that binds our hearts
Is cream of mushroom soup.
We do not walk through the door alone.
We wait and go as a group.

"Trosclair," pseudonym for a Louisiana policeman, in "Cajun Night Before Christmas:

’Twas de night before Christmas
An’ all t’ru de house
Dey don’t a t’ing pass
Not even a mouse.
De chirren been nezzle
Good snug on de flo’
An’ Mama pass de pepper
T’ru de crack on de do’.
Den Mama in de fireplace
Done roas’ up de ham
Stir up de gumbo
An’ make bake de yam."

Tatiana Bek, contemporary Russian poet, in "Oh Life":

"Oh life, long as an epic,
short as a ballad,
wished for as a caress,
salty as prison soup...."

From Robert Crawford's poem "Scotch Broth":

"A soup so thick you could shake its hand and stroll with it before dinner."

Robert Browning, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin:

They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles

Arab poet, replying to Omar Khayyam:

Let Omar sing of wine and bread,
But I prefer fine soup instead.

Vladimir Mayakovsky, early Soviet poet, in "The Cloud in Trousers":

"...You, too, who leaf your lips like a cook
turns the pages of a cookery book.

If you wish,
I shall rage on raw meat;
or, as the sky changes its hue,
if you wish,
I shall grow irreproachably tender:
not a man, but a cloud in trousers!"

Carl Sandburg, in Cornhuskers, 1918:

["Caboose Thoughts"]
...I never heard a mockingbird in Kentucky
Spilling its heart in the morning.
I never saw the snow on Chimborazo.
It's a high white Mexican hat, I hear.
I never had supper with Abe Lincoln.
Nor a dish of soup with Jim Hill.
But I've been around....

"Old Timers"]
I am an ancient reluctant conscript.
On the soup wagons of Xerxes I was a cleaner of pans.
On the march of Miltiades' phalanx I had a haft and head;
I had a bristling gleaming spear-handle.
Red-headed Cæsar picked me for a teamster.
He said, "Go to work, you Tuscan bastard,
Rome calls for a man who can drive horses."
The units of conquest led by Charles the Twelfth,
The whirling whimsical Napoleonic columns:
They saw me one of the horseshoers.
I trimmed the feet of a white horse Bonaparte swept the night stars with.
Lincoln said, "Get into the game; your nation takes you."
And I drove a wagon and team and I had my arm shot off
At Spottsylvania Court House.
I am an ancient reluctant conscript.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967), English poet, in "The Old Huntsman," 1918:
"The wife of thirty years who served me well;
(Not like this beldam clattering in the kitchen,
That never trims a lamp nor sweeps the floor,
And brings me greasy soup in a foul crock.)"

John Taylor (1580-1653), English "water poet," describes wonderful soup ("pottage") in "The Great Eater of Kent":

"There for your solace you may feed upon
Whole seas of pottage, not as Phlegethon
And midst those seas, by art the cook hath laid
Small isles of mutton, which you may invade
With stomack, knife and spoon, or tooth and nail,
With these, the victory you cannot fail.

Thomas Tusser (d. 1580), improvident English singer/musician/farmer/poet, describes various soups ("pottage"), in galloping anapests, in Five Hundreth Points of Good Husbandry United to As Many of Good Huswifery:

"Now leeks are in season, for pottage full good,
And spareth the milch-cow, and purgeth the blood:
These having with peason, for pottage in Lent,
Thou sparest both oatmeal and bread to be spent."

Kaygusuz Abdal, 15th century Bektashi mystic poet, in "Petition" (from Nemin Menemencioglu's Turkish Verse, 1978):

Lord, I humbly beg of You, hear my reverend request,
These are words straight from the heart, they are not spoken in jest.

First, a hundred thousand loaves, also fifty thousand pies,
One hundred sixty thousand buns, profusely buttered on both sides.

A thousand piglets should suffice, if added to a thousand sows,
With sixty of their young, some fifty thousand water buffaloes.

Ten thousand cows, a thousand oxen for a mustard stew,
The trotters separately served in vinegar, with garlic too.

A thousand sheep in casserole, an equal sum of goats at most,
But fifty thousand lambs and kids to grill upon the spit, or roast.

Innumerable chickens, ducks, and in the the same proportion, geese,
Some to make succulent kebabs, and others to be fried in grease.

Pray let there be dish after dish of pigeons and of tender quail,
Partridge and pheasant caught in nets, arriving in an endless file.

Fifty thousand pots of rice, and saffron puddings are inferred,
A thousand pots of porridge, the butter with a drum-stick stirred.

Soups with pleasant flavouring, meatballs gently made, I beg,
Ducklings, and on trays of brass, sweetmeats made of starch and egg.

Fifty thousand pasties and the same amount of baklava,
Honey and almond cakes galore, and countless plates of fresh okra.

Helva fit for conquerors, served on trays and heaped in bowls,
For eager fingers to scoop up, making quite enormous holes.

Forty thousand, fifty thousand pecks of apricot and cherry,
Apple, pear and vintage grape, will be enough to make us merry.

Dennis Lee, Canadian poet, and "Alligator Pie" (1974):

Alligator pie, alligator pie,
If I don't get some I think I'm gonna die.
Give away the green grass, give away the sky,
But don't give away my alligator pie.

Alligator stew, alligator stew,
If I don't get some I don't know what I'll do.
Give away my furry hat, give away my shoe,
But don't give away my alligator stew.

Alligator soup, alligator soup,
If I don't get some I think I'm gonna droop.
Give away my hockey stick, give away my hoop,
But don't give away my alligator soup.

Tarte au Crocodile,
Tarte au crocodile, si croquant, si bon.
Remplis mon assiette, je l'avale tout rond.
Prends mon toutou, prends mes bonbons,
mais ma tarte au crocodile - non, non, non!
Viande de crocodile dans un croquet-monsieur,
quand on m'en prive, je deviens affreux.
Prends ma casquette et mon veston bleu,
Mais ne prends pas le croc dans mon croquet-monsieur!
Soup au reptile, soup au crocodile,
vivre sans cette soup, c'est trop difficile.
Allons au Bresil, ou patrons sur le Nil
chercher cette savoureuse soup au crocodile!

Many thanks to Sandi Nemenyi from Everett, Ontario, for the contribution!
Carl Sandburg's "Soup"

I saw a famous man eating soup.
I say he was lifting a fat broth
Into his mouth with a spoon.
His name was in the newspapers that day
Spelled out in tall black headlines
And thousands of people were talking about him.

When I saw him,
He sat bending his head over a plate
Putting soup in his mouth with a spoon.

Gabriel Celaya's "The Meaning of Soup":

The meaning of soup has been lost.
Life moves slowly, with a warm, oozing tread,
It smells like river mud, like cows and slow earth.
The woman under a man knows that smell.

An odor as nourishing as good soup,
A nutritious weeping, a few patient days
(Here ís where we eat, drink, breathe, and make love.)

Must I explain? Is there anyone who doesn't know this?
Life is a heavy humus, sweet and black.
It has the heat of the loins and insists on shedding tears.

It ís the dammed up river of the woman we love,
The ripe fruit of exhausted hours,
And a job, a house, an impulse, a routine.

Because all of us live and life is just like that.
It ís not love, or happiness, or ideas, or the future.
It ís just a hot, thick, dirty soup.

(Translated from Spanish by Robert Mezey and Hardie St. Martin; many thanks for the contribution from Audrey Matson of Brooklyn, New York)

From Jem Poster's Brought to Light:

Because he turned too late, because he missed
everything but the afterbreath--the twitch and flutter
of the yellowing birch leaves, the hush
as the shaken grasses settled--they couldn't
drag him away but left him out there staring
into the shadows as night came on.
He's waited
so long he can hardly move, his back and shoulders
numb as the bole they're pressed against, his eyelids
heavy, his fingers stiff with cold. And there's a lighted
space he can't get back to, a room where others
go about their usual business, bringing
soup to the table, pulling down the blinds.

Adam Mickiewicz' epic Pan Tadeusz (1834), translated by Watson Kirkconnell:

Bigos was being cooked in every kettle
In human language it is hard to settle
The marvels of its odor, hue and taste;
In poetry's description one has traced
Only the clinking words and clanging rhymes....
This bigos is no ordinary dish,
For it is aptly framed to meet your wish.
Founded upon good cabbage, sliced and sour,
Which, as men say, by its own zest and power
Melts in one's mouth, it settles in a pot
And its dewy bosom folds a lot
Of the best portions of selected meats;
Scullions parboil it then, until heat
Draws from its substance all the living juices,
And from the pot's edge, boiling fluid sluices
And all the air is fragrant with the scent.

Li Po, 8th century T'ang dynasty poet and Taoist bon vivant, in "The Moon" (trans. J.A. Turner):

When I was very small,
Sometimes I used to call
The moon in heaven a jade-white soup tureen;
Sometimes I thought it was
A sort of magic glass,
Flying across cloudbanks of pale blue-green.

Richard Brautigan's "Salvador Dali," from The Galilee Hitchhiker, 1968:

"Are you
or aren't you
going to eat
your soup,
you bloody old
cloud merchant?"
Jeanne Duval
hitting Baudelaire
on the back
as he sat
out the window.
Baudelaire was
Then he laughed
like hell,
waving his spoon
in the air
like a wand
changing the room
into a painting
by Salvador
Dali, changing
the room
into a painting
by Van Gogh.

Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (1400),

"A Cook they hadde with hem for the nones, To boil the chiknes with the marybones, And powdre-marchant tart and galingale. Wel coude he knowe a draughte of London ale. He coulde roste, and seethe, and broile, and frye, Maken mortreux, and wel bake a pie. But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me, That on his shine a mormal hadde he. For blankmanger, that made he with the best.

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), Japanese poet and haiku artist:

From all these trees--
in salads, soups, everywhere--
cherry blossoms fall

Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote de la Mancha, Part I, Chapter 37 (1605):

Don Quixote delivered his discourse in such a manner and in such correct language, that for the time being he made it impossible for any of his hearers to consider him a madman; on the contrary, as they were mostly gentlemen, to whom arms are an appurtenance by birth, they listened to him with great pleasure as he continued: "Here, then, I say is what the student has to undergo; first of all poverty: not that all are poor, but to put the case as strongly as possible: and when I have said that he endures poverty, I think nothing more need be said about his hard fortune, for he who is poor has no has no share of the good things of life. This poverty he suffers from in various ways, hunger, or cold, or nakedness, or all together; but for all that it is not so extreme but that he gets something to eat, though it may be at somewhat unseasonable hours and from the leavings of the rich; for the greatest misery of the student is what they themselves call 'going out for soup,' and there is always some neighbour's brazier or hearth for them, which, if it does not warm, at least tempers the cold to them, and lastly, they sleep comfortably at night under a roof.

P.G. Wodehouse (1882-1976) articulates "The Gourmet's Love-Song":

How strange is Love; I am not one
Who Cupid's power belittles,
For Cupid 'tis who makes me shun
My cutomary victuals.
Oh, Effie, since that painful scene
That left me broken-hearted,
My appetite, erstwhile so keen,
Has utterly departed.

My form, my friends observe with pain,
Is growing daily thinner.
Love only occupies the brain
That once could think of dinner.
Around me myriad waiters flit,
With meat and drink to ply men;
Alone, disconsolate, I sit,
And feed on thoughts of Hymen.

The kindly waiters hear my groan,
They strive to charm with curry;
They tempt me with a devilled bone--
I beg them not to worry.
Soup, whitebait, entrées, fricassees,
They bring me uninvited.
I need them not, for what are these
To one whose life is blighted?

They show me dishes rich and rare,
But ah! my pulse no joy stirs.
For savories I've ceased to care,
I hate the thought of oysters.
They bring me roast, they bring me boiled,
But all in vain they woo me;
The waiters softly mutter, "Foiled!"
The chef, poor man, looks gloomy.

So, Effie, turn that shell-like ear,
Nor to my sighing close it,
You cannot doubt that I'm sincere--
This ballad surely shows it.
No longer spurn the suit I press,
Respect my agitation,
Do change your mind, and answer, "Yes",
And save me from starvation.