April is my favorite month for a trillion reasons. For starters, it’s my birth month (April 2)! And it’s SPRING. And it’s National Poetry Month, which might just seem like another obscure, made-up holiday, but it’s not. I promise.
This one’s actually very real and very official, and it was introduced by the equally real, equally official Academy of American Poets all the way back in 1996. Since then, it’s been adopted by thousands of schools and bookshops and libraries, and now it brings joy to people all over the world, including me, and hopefully, in just a moment, you.
Last night, I attended the Academy’s annual Poetry & The Creative Mind reading at Lincoln Center here in New York City. Meryl Streep read two of her favorite poems (!!!) as did Meg Ryan (!!!!!!!) and also Wayne Brady (…?…!!!!!!!!!!). There was ukulele-playing. And singing. And a very sweet audience comprised of people whose average age was likely trice mine.
Anyway, it was a lovely night, and it got me thinking that I should really highlight a few of my favorite poems here on the blog and on my YouTube channel from time to time.
Enter: today’s post. “Poetry and pudding.” It’s an excuse for me to share my most-loved poems with you under the innocent guise of alliteration. Every time I make a dish that starts with “P,” I’ll share a poem, too. (This will probably be equal parts genius and hilarious. You try figuring out a way to combine poetry with a food blog.)
There’s a beautiful quote by Marlene Dietrich that reads, “It is a joy to find thoughts one might have beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognizably wiser than oneself,” and that’s how I’ve always felt about the poems I’ve loved (although Dietrich was actually talking about quotations in general). Good poetry encapsulates thoughts we’ve always had, or thoughts we didn’t know we were having, and weaves them into something beautiful and pocket-sized—a gem brilliant and substantive enough to merit our interest, but always small enough for us to carry. And then, at an arm’s length, it becomes easier to see, understand, untangle, admire, or laugh at whatever that thought was that brought us to the poem in the first place.
“For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” (That’s Mary Oliver.)
So, without further ado, a few of my personal favorites, after which, of course, is the promised recipe for vanilla chia pudding with a berry compote, which is so delicious and really doesn’t even need any sweetener if you mix it all together.
by Mary Oliver
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
i have found what you are like
by e.e. cummings
i have found what you are like
(Who feathers frightened fields
with the superior dust-of-sleep. wields
easily the pale club of the wind
and swirled justly souls of flower strike
the air in utterable coolness
deeds of green thrilling light
—in the woods
And the coolness of your smile is
stirringofbirds between my arms;but
i should rather than anything
have(almost when hugeness will shut
The More Loving One
by W.H. Auden
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
by Shel Silverstein
She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
They passed right by —
And never knew.
Chia Seed Pudding with Blackberry Compote
Makes 2-3 servings
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- ¼ cup plus one teaspoon chia seeds
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 banana, for topping
- 1/3 cup raspberries
- 3/4 cup blackberries
- 2 tablespoons water
WHAT YOU’LL DO
- Mix together the almond milk, chia seeds, cinnamon, and honey in a medium bowl. Whisk together every 2 minutes for 10 minutes, letting it rest in between. Then, cover the mixture and let it sit in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours. You can also leave it to rest overnight and eat it the next morning.
- For the compote, heat berries and water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes or until it reaches a jam-like consistency of your liking. Let cool slightly, then use it to top your pudding along with banana slices and whatever else you’d like to add.