Of Essence and Expression

I’ve been reading poetry again – a compilation by Daisy Goodwin (Poems to Last a Lifetime). In my previous life (a.k.a. before The Dude and The Little Person), I had poetic and literary pretensions. I was going to write The Great Novel, I was a poet, a wordsmith, a phrasemonger. I had been known, when working as a secretary, to send emails consisting of rhyming couplets, while still containing the relevant information needing to be passed on (this had an advantage – people liked it, which meant my emails were seldom ignored). In those days. poetry was serious business. Yes, I enjoyed reading poetry, but I didn’t read for enjoyment alone – I read for understanding, to improve my own poetry, to think. This time around, I have been enjoying the poetry. Not marvelling at the poet’s talent, or analysing why the metaphor works, but just listening to the words and enjoying the experience. Like watching honey unwind itself from a spoon, or the swirls of snowflakes, or that feeling of shared blanket, mug of hot chocolate and crackling fire – decadently, luxuriously normal.

Of course, while poetry per se has  been put on a shelf for a few years now (since I started uni, and tried to engage my brain in that alternative writing style they term Academic), it has never truly disappeared. It is in all the Dr Seuss books I have read to Little Person (tweetle beetle anyone), which I confess I have enjoyed, but also in my cooking. The matching of ingredients to occasion, of meat to side, of mains to desserts. Hospitality is as much about rhythm and attention to detail as any good poem is. Knowing when to repeat, when to contrast, when to emphasise the flavour (or image), and when to just let it slide along, knowing the recipient will bring their own meaning to the experience.

Hence the title of the post. The essence of good poetry and good cookery is fundamentally the same – creativity coupled with understanding of the audience. The expression is different, but that’s all the better for me, because really, I have The Dude, Little Person, Cat 1 and Cat 2 – do I look like I have time to come up with any half-decent poetry? I can meditate on poetry and psychology while chopping thyme and stirring sauces. But I can’t feed my family while crumpled up with a notepad alliterating alarms. Or Pontificating poems. Or mentalising metaphors. So it’s not really a choice.

Some may say I am only attempting to justify my failure to pursue creative endeavours, and while that may be true, it doesn’t feel like justification. It feels like I am allowing myself to explore alternative expressions of creativity, and allowing myself to enjoy the poetry I read as was intended – a morsel of the poet’s life to be shared, not necessarily studied. The way The Dude taught me to enjoy poetry me when he first wooed me with sonnets. (Yes, I was wooed. He’s brilliant.)

And so far the Little Person seems to enjoy the fact I can cook and read stories to her. So everybody’s happy. Even me.


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