Sunday, December 7, 2014



“The Way In,” a poem in
(Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, Minn., 2014)

Linda Hogan’s DARK. SWEET. is a thick book—422 pages—befitting its “New & Selected” status.  But “The Way In” swiftly became my favorite poem (at least for now).  It is lovely, wise and loving:

The Way In

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
Sometimes the way in is a song.
But there are three ways in the world: dangerous, wounding, and beauty.
To enter stone, be water.
To rise through hard earth, be plant
desiring sunlight, believing in water.
To enter fire, be dry.
To enter life, be food.

“The Way In” captured my attention for clarifying an issue I’d been thinking about for a few months.   That is, a few months earlier I attended dinner at a restaurant (“First Restaurant”) that’s been hailed for its innovative approaches to cuisine.  And, yep, the food was yummy.  But one of the courses was a kale appetizer served atop an open book. There was a transparent layer beneath the food and the page that didn’t intrude from the visual focus on the book-platter (so to speak).  Here’s a pic:

As soon as the waiter placed the course in front of me, I felt a slight recoil—I didn’t know what the chef was thinking when he conceived of the presentation (he was a philosophy major in college if that reveals anything), but couldn’t help but think that using the book as a platter was just … disrespectful to the book.  I took a closer look at the book-platter—and, Reader, do Take a closer look as well at the above picture—and noticed that the book was used upside-down so that one can’t read the text.  A dismissal of the text—isn’t that a disrespectful dismissal of a book’s purpose?

On the other hand, one could argue that the book is presenting something—in this case food instead of an idea.  When I turned the image around, I noticed that the book is actually a cookbook.  So maybe the chef—or philosopher-chef—thought to cut to the chase and use the book to present food rather than just a description of food…?  The first time my thoughts meandered along this line, I thought I was making too much of it … until I read Hogan’s “The Way In.”  But before I go there with this First Restaurant, let me share a dining experience at another restaurant, el club Allard (“Second Restaurant”) in Madrid that I think offers a more effective way to integrate text into the eating experience.

Here was a card greeting diners when they first sat down at the table to present menu options (since we were in Spain, you see Spanish, not English text):

Whereas the First Restaurant used the book to present food and not just ideas (recipes) on food, Second Restaurant actually offered the page and words to be eaten!  Literally and not metaphorically.  (Literally, pun intended.)  As it turns out, the card was not fashioned from paper but from some edible material (perhaps rice flour):

After we chose our menu option, we were invited to taste the card along with some dipping sauce

Hogan’s poem “The Way In” can be read to be a discourse on commitment and what it takes to really experience something.  The body must be involved: you can’t just talk the talk, you gotta walk the talk, if you will (“To enter fire, be dry. / To enter life, be food.”)  Thus, the First Restaurant was not innovative enough by just presenting food on a book.  The Second Restaurant was more effective for actually making the diner take in the whole concept: taste, bite, chew, swallow

Obviously, the matter isn’t just about food.  There’s a lot of armchair whatevers in today’s world, perhaps as facilitated by the e-separation viz the internet which is so much a part of contemporary life.  To involve the body—to risk the body—is a more all-encompassing commitment.  The great thing about such a commitment is that while such risk exposes the individual to what are “dangerous, [and] wounding” it also allows the individual to experience “beauty”:

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
Sometimes the way in is a song.


Eileen Tabios reveals something about herself in ARDUITY'S interview about what's hard about her poetry.  Her just-released poetry collection, SUN STIGMATA (Sculpture Poems), received a review by Amazon Hall of Famer reviewer Grady Harp.  Due out in 2015 will be her second "Collected Poems" project; while her first THE THORN ROSARY was focused on the prose poem form, her forthcoming INVEN(S)TORY will focus on the list or catalog poem form.  More information at 

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