I recently had a poem published in the Fond issue of Meat for Tea: The Valley Review. I was ecstatic when I received the news. This is the fourth magazine I’ve been published in, and my third published poem overall. This is more that I could have ever imagined, especially since five years ago, I hated poetry, couldn’t understand it. I was always a fiction writer at heart, and I avoided poems like the plague, mainly because I could never think of elegant words that rhymed, and iambic pentameter confused the hell out of me.
My contributor’s copy finally arrived in the mail a few days ago, and I turned right to page 19 to read my poem, “How to Cure the Flu,” a recipe for homemade soup. I proudly showed it to my mom, and after reading, she politely asked, “What makes this a poem?”
I was taken aback to say the least, and to be quite honest, I felt a little insulted. I had flashbacks to a rejection letter from a different magazine about another one of my poems, in which the editor in friendlier terms said, “I don’t understand how this is a poem.”
My response is, what constitutes a poem anyway? Seriously? No one writes like Shakespeare anymore. Except for this guy named Sebastian who was a classmate in my poetry writing workshop in college. I was so in love with and so jealous of his poems. I hope he’s published somewhere. I hope he grows up to be the freaking poet laureate!
I would really like to know how people define a poem today. Because when I open up a literary magazine, those poems don’t rhyme. They don’t have a specific meter, at least not one I can easily identify. They read like prose broken up into verses. Hello! Isn’t that what free verse is?!
Yes, I’m a fiction writer first. Yes, my poetry sometimes sounds like prose, but so does everyone else’s. Am I being too sensitive in saying that?
For me, poems are like short stories. They are glimpses into a world using a small amount of words. The lines don’t necessarily have to be in complete sentences, or even be grammatically correct, for that matter. As long as that snapshot the poet is trying to present to the readers comes into view. I think the most important part of a poem is imagery. If it doesn’t have strong images, ones that evoke a certain type of emotion or feeling, then it’s not doing its job as a poem.
How would I describe “How to Cure the Flu”? It’s a witty poem, but also very nostalgic. It takes you back to your roots, to those country mothers and grandmothers who had a home remedy for everything. To all those people who took a spoonful of castor oil for every ailment as a child, this poem is for you.
I’m grateful to the editors at Meat for Tea for seeing that (or maybe they just thought the poem was witty), and publishing it. I hope that all who read it will see that too and not assume it’s just a soup recipe trying to be a poem.
By the way, if you’re interested in reading my poem and others, the PDF version of the magazine is just $5. The print is only $10. Purchase your copy! Support the arts! In case you’re wondering, I’ve decided to tie this post into the Write or Die Wednesday prompt by saying this: a cup of hot tea, Meat for Tea, and a toasted blueberry muffin will make an excellent breakfast to start your morning. Also, a cup of Mama’s homemade soup isn’t a bad idea for an unconventional breakfast either! 😉