biscuits and other ambiguities

coffee and ginger biscuits
When I’ve quoted Sandburg – “poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits” – in the past, I have always felt the biscuits were there to represent the everyday, functional side of life: I’ve always assumed he meant Rich Tea, not Hobnobs.

But apparently yesterday was National Biscuit Day, which set me thinking: as I am not really sure which nation was celebrating, I don’t know whether the biscuits in question are the ones you eat with morning coffee or with gravy. And even if it were definitely a British celebration, they might be cheesy biscuits rather than gingersnaps.

Now I am wondering whether Sandberg was thinking of American biscuits – the plain scones eaten with thick sausage gravy – with all the social and regional connotations that they bring to bear. Suddenly hyacinths have become the clear and unambiguous aspect of the quote: a natural Truth alongside the unnecessarily complex human view of things.

I have more hyacinths than biscuits in my archive of poems: my photos are almost entirely bereft of human figures and I think my writing also deals more with nature than human foibles – so it was tricky to find a poem to include.

In the end, though, I found a very old piece with galletas in. (Another ambiguous term, although I seem to have used it in the sense of cracker, rather than sweet biscuit.) It’s one of the few poems I originally wrote in Spanish and is definitely light verse rather than poetry.
 

Mi amiga la foca

Mi amiga es una foca
siempre con la boca
llena:
pronto será una ballena.

Come cualquier cosa,
tanto salada como sosa,
y es una auténtica golosa.

No le satisface
toda la comida que su madre hace
(quien cocina todo el día
para alimentar su voraz cría).

Siempre quiere comida
incluso cuando está dormida;
no me deja sugerir
que se detenga para digerir.

Sólo le interesa
la próxima hamburguesa,
espaguetis, macarrones,
aceitunas, boquerones,
pan, galletas, queso…
y todo eso.

Sigue comiendo,
y tan gorda se está poniendo
que me parece que se hincha
como un globo: ¡A ver si no se pincha!

 
There’s an English version, too, which doesn’t have biscuits or crackers in it, as it was an early experiment in translation and I decided to focus on the tone and the general idea rather than on specific and precise details.
 

Eating disorder

My friend’s as fat as a cow
but she goes on eating anyhow;
there’s nothing frail
about her: she’s a whale.

She’ll eat anything and everything, sweet or savoury, it
doesn’t matter, though pasta’s her favourite.

Her mother has no time to do what she oughta –
always cooking for her daughter.

Her appetite would take some beating:
she just goes on eating
ignoring all suggestions
about her digestion:

she binges on cheese,
Devon cream teas,
mixing her toasties
with beef, yorkshires, roasties…
and all of that stuff:
it’s never enough.

Now, she’s round as a ball:
as broad as she’s tall;
if she doesn’t stop
she’ll pop.

 

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s