Earlier today, I was almost giving up on my plan to write a food and poetry post in honor of National Poetry Month. April is almost over, after all. And then, a friend sent over an article on slaughterhouses (yes, friends sometimes do that!) and instead of reading it ,I clicked on the link to this beautiful piece by the poet Tony Hoagland. He makes the case that poetry is essential for improving public discourse and recommends twenty poems that would change the way we analyze, discuss and debate national issues.
Mr. Hoagland invites us to imagine members of Congress debating the merits of subsidies to corn growers for producing ethanol as an alternative to gasoline. Perhaps, he suggests, the members might recall “Traveling Through the Dark” by William Stafford as they debate this dilemma.
“To swerve might make more dead”, they might reflect.
Food policy and poetry on the same page, who would have thought it was possible? There are also life lessons to be learnt from the tasks necessary for providing food:
“You have to carry your own corn far….
You have to hunt without profit.”
Sometimes you have to be ready to take a step in a new direction, adopt a new technology that might make you uneasy because it will help ensure children do not go hungry, half the world away.
Yes, it would certainly be a better world if the harshness of our daily conflicts over food were softened by words that feed the soul.