P&W Prompt 7: Abject Recipe

This week’s Poets & Writers prompt:

For one week, collect words and phrases you encounter throughout the day from signs, advertisements, menus, overheard conversations, radio programs, headlines, television, etc. At the end of the week, write a found poem, using these snippets.

Here’s what I came up with:

objectum-sexuality; Camille Paglia; abject; documentary; hava nagila; spicy black bean soup; cayenne; sazón goya; erika eiffel; amazon jungle; tena, ecuador; illegitimate and unenforceable

This particular prompt, with its complete and utter randomness in word selection, created a slightly different problem than other “random word” prompts. In earlier random word prompts, the words were at least taken from a single source – a magazine article or a freewrite – which implies that, though random, the words have at least a common thread or link to each other. This time, taking words from multiple sources and over a period of days, the challenge is intensified – there is absolutely nothing to start with: no narrative, no initial impulse, nothing but a strange draw to the sound or meaning of a particular word or words. What I found myself doing was trying to force a narrative while writing about the particular situation in which I discovered or noticed the words. You’ll see that force in the first stanza which serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever except to create some sort of framework on which the poem can hang. What follows is a kind of stream-of-consciousness list of the origin of the words I selected (not literally the word’s origin but rather the origin of my noticing the word). This the first complete draft:

Abjection

I know we’re not supposed to write
poems about the internet – the millions
of bits and scraps of stories of the moment.
But there is something there, something
to be said about the words we encounter
and then forget, immediately, as if the lack
of paper, of physical heft, were enough to say:
there is nothing here. Nothing

but a recipe for spicy black bean soup, calling
for cayenne and diced jalapeños, that ends
in the scent of sazón goya permeating my kitchen;
a wiki article about Camille Paglia that Will insists,
in a drunken argument, I read right now; and the history
of the hava nagila he hums while Claire messages
me about a documentary she heard about on the radio
about the impact of drilling in middle America.

Susannah emails from Ecuador, near Tena
she writes about tromping through the Amazon
and attaches a news article, weightless,
about a village clogged with this same black crude
about a settlement the oil giant calls illegitimate
and unenforceable like the rules Erika Eiffel, who suffers
from objectum-sexuality, shunned when she married

the tower in spite of the looks on the faces of the audience
on YouTube. In spite of the thousands following recipes
for Mexican cornbread, a congresswoman lies
in her hospital bed, and we try desperately
to remember her name.

When reading through it again, I noticed the odd inclusion of food in here – the spicy black bean soup and mexican cornbread – and so decided to see what might happen if I tried to make that inclusion have some greater meaning – the black bean soup recalling the South American vibe of the Ecuadorian news article; the Mexican cornbread recalling the immigration issues in Arizona. It’s still incredibly rough and not really a poem yet. And, truth be told, I’m not even sure there’s a poem in there. And this is what happens (at least to me) when the words are forced.  And this is a problem with prompts. Still, I don’t think it’s an entire loss – even though this particular poem is a failure, in my estimation, there are moments in it that I think might come out later, in an entirely different poem. Here it is as I’ve left (abandoned) it:

Abject Recipe

While surfing the web for a recipe for black bean soup,
that calls for cayenne and diced jalapeños, the scent
of sazón goya permeating my kitchen, I remember
the wiki article about Camille Paglia that Will insisted,
in a drunken argument, I read right now; and look
for the history of the hava nagila he hummed. I chop
an onion while Claire messages me about a documentary
she heard about on the radio about the impact of drilling

in middle America. Susannah emails from Ecuador,
near Tena, she writes about tromping through the Amazon
and attaches a news article, weightless, about a village
clogged with this same black crude, about a settlement
the oil giant calls illegitimate and unenforceable like the rules
Erika Eiffel, who suffers from objectum-sexuality, shunned
when she married the tower in spite of the looks on the faces
of the audience on YouTube.

I know we’re not supposed to write poems about the internet,
about the millions of words, the scraps of stories we encounter
and then forget, immediately, as if the lack of paper,
the physical heft, were enough to say:
there is nothing here. Nothing but a popular recipe
for Mexican cornbread and a congresswoman lying
in her hospital bed. There is nothing here but us,
trying desperately to remember her name.

5 thoughts on “P&W Prompt 7: Abject Recipe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s