My top five food poets were chosen in honor of National Poetry Month and Earth Day. Actually, I was somewhat inspired to think about my ‘top five’ things in life after watching Chris Rock’s comedy “Top Five,” where various folks were asked to list their top five rappers.
I don’t have any top five rappers because, well, I don’t know any. I don’t listen to modern rap music. I tried once and hated it. I do prefer old-school music artists who know how to rap like Arthur Prysock, Gil Scott Heron and Marvin Gaye.
As I began to research this theme of food and poetry, I discovered that poems about food and beverage especially wine, were written since the beginning of time. I read Horace ‘Odes III.21′ that opened with a line about a wine-jar. Rumi’s poem (1207) “The Grape Cure’ is about fasting. And then there is the Bible which is full of poetry from both the New Testament and Old Testaments, especially the Hebrew Bible, Song of Songs, and Lamentations. Here is a link to a lesson plan to learn more about Biblical poetry.
But to get back on track, I do have many ‘top fives’ in a variety of categories like films, flowers, or songs. For April, I decided to draw up a short list of my top five African American poets who cooked up poems about food. I immediately saw a connection to Earth Day, another April holiday. There is a connection! Poems have a way of bringing us back to earth, the garden and memories. The poems that I chose were written by: Rita Dove, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Alexander, Nikki Giovanni, and Langston Hughes. This was the theme of my recent story for the food magazine zesterdaily.com.
“April is National Poetry Month. For Zester foodies I bring — not a recipe — but a taste of the work of my favorite African-American poets who chose food as metaphor and main ingredient.
“I think poems return us to that place of mud and dirt and earth, sun and rain,” African-American poet Kevin Young said in an interview on National Public Radio’s “The Salt” program. “And that’s where food comes from, and so there’s this common link.