Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Book Review - The Hungry Ear, Kevin Young (Ed.)

The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink


Kevin Young (Ed)


Category: Poetry: Food

Synopsis: An anthology of 150+ contemporary poems about food and drink.

Date finished: 18 September 2013     

Rating: ****½

My best and most vivid memories involve food:

     My mother turning the kitchen upside down twice a year to make 20 dozen doughnuts for the
     church bake sales. Her doughnuts were always priced higher than the others.

     Making lefse with my Norwegian grandmother.

     The first thing I ever cooked by myself: potato soup with egg dumplings from a church cookbook
     because my mother never made soup. I was 13.

     Going through my grandmother’s refrigerator with my aunt after Grandma passed away in 2004.
     We found a bag of chopped nuts in there from 1982.

     My father teaching me to spell “mayonnaise.”

     My brothers getting jars of pickles for Christmas because they were so hard to buy for.

     Eating baked French fries out of an oval serving bowl off of upended boxes when my husband and
     I were moving into our first apartment together.

     The way my mother had hard and fast rules about meat and vegetable paring. Carrots with
     beef, corn with pork, peas with chicken and fish, squash with meatloaf. Every time. She never

We all have these memories. They’re part of what makes us who we are.

I can’t think of a better topic for a poetry anthology than food. (I’d say bees come in a close second, though. Poets do love to write about bees.)

Kevin Young did a phenomenal job of collecting a smorgasbord (sorry, couldn’t help it) of food-related poems. But what blew me away was the organization of the poems. They were arranged with the skill of a surgeon. (That’s a bad metaphor, let me try again.) They were arranged like a tailor’s tiny hand stitches. Each following the last, each leading to the next, nothing out of order. It was a marvel.

You’ll see some usual suspects, like William Carlos Williams’ “This is Just to Say,” but you’ll find many, many more you’ve never read by poets you have. It’s an accessible volume, which is what I always hope for but don’t always get.

I cannot recommend this collection highly enough. The poets included are exceptional. And the poems were mouthwatering. A true meal for the ear.

My favorite poems about food that were not included:

Song, Robert Hass
The Feast, Robert Hass
The Catsup Bottle, Ogden Nash
Divorced Fathers and Pizza Crusts, Mark Halliday
Bone Handled Fork, Ted Kooser
After Forty Years of Marriage, She Tries A New Recipe For Hamburger Hot Dish, Leo Dangel
The Iceberg Theory, Gerald Lochlin

Would you recommend this to a friend?

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