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Friday, April 8, 2011

Number 119: Kim Addonizio "Eating Together"

Eating Together

I know my friend is going,
though she still sits there
across from me in the restaurant,
and leans over the table to dip
her bread in the oil on my plate; I know
how thick her hair used to be,
and what it takes for her to discard
her man’s cap partway through our meal,
to look straight at the young waiter
and smile when he asks
how we are liking it. She eats
as though starving—chicken, dolmata,
the buttery flakes of filo—
and what’s killing her
eats, too. I watch her lift
a glistening black olive and peel
the meat from the pit, watch
her fine long fingers, and her face,
puffy from medication. She lowers
her eyes to the food, pretending
not to know what I know. She’s going.
And we go on eating.

--Kim Addonizio

Hap Notes: Kim Addonizio (born 1954) has a rock-star image; her website is littered with pictures of her younger days in hip garb, she can play the blues harmonica (and does at many of her readings), she is tattooed and hip. In spite of this meandering through the confusing facades of pop culture, she often writes a vulnerable and sensitive poem. She has written several volumes of award-winning poetry and novels.

Now before you tell me that its okay to be hip and a good poet I'll tell you that you cannot be both. Poetry, in spite of its sorta hip cousin rap, is about dorky stuff like the passage of time, love, hope, hate, loss, anger, sorrow – you know, real life. Real life ain't hip, if it were we wouldn't need advertising copywriters. We, as a culture, keep saying it is, or it should be, but it really isn't- it's full of clumsiness, insecurity and fear. The truest things a person can say are not hip, they expose the raw humanity underneath. Our culture is all about running away from this, being cool, being young, being cavalier and clever and glib. When someone erupts with real feeling, we want to comfort them and then shove them aside; we have a tendency to piss on a fire and hope it will go out. It's clever, it just can't stop forest fires. And only YOU can prevent forest fires! (ten points if you know where that line is from- and it ain't poetry.) Everywhere we look we see aching empty souls just treading water, wanting something deep and nourishing to the spirit; see what I mean? Not hip. Not hip to say it, either. Poetry can help this if it's not too hip or glib. Just sayin'.

Addonizio's mom was tennis champ Pauline Betz and her dad was the awesome Robert Addie who covered baseball for the Washington Post and the Washington Herald. He was one of those "old school" journalists who never skipped a beat; i.e. he wrote clean and sharp stuff and was always on the job. She went to went to Georgetown University and San Francisco State and while she has done some teaching she has wisely commented that it would suck the soul out of her writing. She's in her 50s now so her best stuff is just beginning to form. (ahem...being in your 50s and 60s= not hip.) She's very talented.

In the poem today we see friends eating a meal together while one is suffering the ravages of cancer. Cancer eats what you eat, takes the food's nutrients and starves you as it grows, weakening you twice. Her friend bravely takes off her cap exposing her head of considerably less hair due to cancer treatments. She pulls the flesh off of that black olive and I immediately think of her trying to do the same to the cancer- or the cancer doing it to her. Cancer always seems to be black to me, do you think so, too? It's a wonderful, vulnerable poem from the standpoint of the cancer sufferer; and always there's the hint of the guilty sorrow we feel when someone else is suffering. All we can do is write about it.

You can find more Addonizio here:

Here's a good quote from Addonizio:

"What I've learned is simple: if you nurture it, it will expand, and it will nurture you in return. I have also learned that it is a kind of salvation. Sometimes it's more than enough and sometimes it's not enough -- by that I mean one's own creativity. If you can truly tap in to the creative process, you know it's there all the time, and then you probably don't need saving."

You can see the whole interview here:

And her website is here:

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