If readers aren't hungry before reading the Spring 2017 issue of Poetry East, they will be by the time they are done. The Food themed issue, dedicated to James Reiss who passed away in December 2016, is organized in seven sections for the seven courses of “the perfect meal.” Images throughout the issue, taken by the journal’s editors, feature Mary Jo McMillin’s “perfect meal,” and every other aspect fits the theme: the table of contents is a menu, recipes end each section, and paintings of food and meals adorn glossy pages. Like introducing a friend to your favorite dishes at your regular restaurant, let me tell you my favorites in the Spring 2017 menu.
At first glance, Sally Fisher’s “Lapse in Taste” seems it would be better suited in the Dessert section instead of in Appetizers, but after a second reading, I understood its placement. The speaker has a man over for dinner, “not extravagant” and with “no designs.” But then they pass the bed, heavy with intention: “an enormous, white / cake with thick, slippery / delicious frosting.” Fisher titillates and teases, what better to whet appetites?
In Soup, James Scruton’s “Honeysuckle” makes the flower a gold liquid that drips over the page like actual honey. The poem is rich with summery images, ending with my favorite image of all, the speakers “licking magic from their fingers.” I left the Soup section warmed and ready for more.
George Bilgere in the Fish section gathers us around a familiar object: “The Table.” Key memories and important events are often centered around the dining room table, but it is just an object easily forgotten and dismantled, reminding readers of the importance of human connection and memory over the material objects (food included) that populate our lives.
Serving us the Main dish, Faith Shearin tells us “A Few Things I Ate.” Beginning with the regrettable (“I’m sorry I ate the fast food / cookies that tasted like paper the same way I am sorry / I let certain men kiss me or hold my hand.”) and ending with the good and reverent (ice cream sandwiches with grandma and chicken sandwiches on the beach “wrapped / in a foil so silver they must have been valuable.”), Shearin’s connections with food are personal, but there's also something familiar and relatable about them that doesn’t isolate the reader.
Katelynn Moxon summons images of the biblical story known by the same name: “The Feeding of the Multitudes,” but instead of miraculously feeding fish and bread to people, the speaker's father feeds birds in the backyard. His ritualistic spreading of food receives as much care and attention as perhaps a religious ritual or the ritual of preparing and serving meals to humans.
In Cheese, Alison Woods begins “Oh, Camembert!”:
Because in heaven
there may be no cheese
the answer is to eat
as much of it as possible.
Woods feeds us morsels of cheese in each stanza, almost enough to tide readers over until they get their hands on some of their own.
The final section is my favorite: Dessert. The poems in this section transport readers: Lyn Lifshin brings readers back in time to childhood in “Some Afternoons When Nobody Was Fighting,” describing the dance of baking with her mother and sister, and Laurie D. Morrissey in “Gould Hill” melts cider donuts in our mouths, bringing readers back to a fall. Ron Padgett closes the creative work in the issue, reminding readers of the simple pleasures of someone making you the title subject: “Chocolate Milk.” The speaker’s excitement for it is contagious.
In the Spring 2017 issue of Poetry East, the editors invite readers to their table and offer them a literary feast. Whether just looking a recipe to try out at your next family potluck, a poem to snack on, or an entire banquet of a reading experience, this issue of Poetry East is the perfect place to start.