June 2007

Courtney Birst-Wyrick


What Feeds Us by Diane Lockward

Diane Lockward plunges headfirst into her obsession with both words and food in her luscious book, What Feeds Us. The title poem begins: “I brought the things I really need -- / two books I love, a laptop, / clean white paper, a radio / in case I get lonely… / I carried three almond croissants, / one of which I have already eaten…” Thus begins an 80-page love affair that wanders between food and words and back again.

A “foodie” at heart, many of her memories are so intertwined with food it is impossible to untangle them, so she simply doesn’t -- instead she mingles them together until it is hard to imagine these images without the accompaniment of food. The first poem in Section One, titled “The First Artichoke” states, “Piece by piece, the artichoke came apart, / the way we would in 1959, the year the flowerbuds / of the artichokes in my father’s garden bloomed / without him, their blossoms seven inches wide / and violet-blue as bruises.”

Food is prevalent in many relationships the author has -- her parents’ relationship, which she observed as a child, the relationship with her husband, with her son, even with herself. In “Cold Pizza,” which begins with a quote from a marriage counselor -- “You know it’s over when you can no longer bear to watch him eat,” weaves the status of her marriage into a meal of cold pizza shared with her husband. Perhaps the most telling line of the poem is “snow aswirl in drifts, a foot / of it piled between us…”

There are several poems sprinkled throughout the book that do not incorporate food as one of the main elements, and though at first glance they may not seem to “fit” the overall feel of the book, I grew to love these additions. “Sometimes in Dreams” is written as a stream-of-consciousness piece, and tucked in the midst of this almost-mindless babbling is one of my favorite lines in the book: “Mother always said my hair was my primary feature. Maybe it is, / but only because the other features are so dismal. Blue goes / with everything, she said. I’ve got a closetful of blue. Sometimes / I’m so blue I don’t think I’ll ever see green again, and the only / man who will ever want me is the one I manufacture in a dream. / Some days I’m grateful to have even him.”

Two of my favorite poems in the book do not dance with food imagines, and are starkly different from one another. “The Best Words” is a poem that begs to be read aloud, starting, “The ones that sound obscene but aren’t, / that put a finger to the flame but don’t burn. / Words like asinine, poppycock, titmouse, tit for tat, / woodpecker, pecorino, poop deck, and beaver.” This poem will have you tearing up with laughter as you read the delightful words that truly are “the best words.” The other poem I returned to more than once was “You Should Avoid Doctors,” which begins, “Because they find something you don’t / want. That’s their job, finding trouble.”

Overall this book is a wonderfully delicious read -- curl up with it the next time you are hungry for some words, I guarantee you’ll find it filling.

What Feeds Us by Diane Lockward
Wind Publications
ISBN: 1893239578
85 pages