March 26 , 2011

Human Work

A Poet's Cookbook


Human Work was written while cooking. It is the narrative of a voice in domesticity, at the alchemical heart of home – the hearth, or Hestia – where the kitchen is a stage for acts of eating and uttering; for the ebb and flow to the human mouth. The poems were written ‘live’ among pots and pans, beside chopping boards, between plates, bowls, knives, forks, spoons, and servings. Their time is the hybrid time of writing and cooking – where the dimensions of two activities hinge together. The poems occupy a shared space; the work is one work. They live together and cross-talk, like figures in a room, invoking an old story, perhaps one of our very first: how we make food to eat and share, how we draw and transform others’ bodies into being our own flesh and life. Implicit in ingredients are the stories of matter itself: without food there can be no other stories.

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Like the poems of Bee Journal these poems started life in notebooks, in situ. Their pages seem marked with the very process of their making: jam, grease, wine stains, crumbs of flour and spice, flecks of meat, fish, fruit, vegetable. Like Bee Journal, this is a book about communal purpose, a record of risk and response – a poetry of the moment, both immemorial and thrillingly modern.

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