Poetry Friday: Not for prudes. Maybe not for vegetarians*, either.

h1 July 25th, 2008 by eisha

WHAM!The other night I was hanging out with The Poets Upstairs in their apartment. We were talking books and poetry (surprise!) and they asked if I’d heard of Phyllis Janowitz. “Nope,” I said. Well, they said, this will not do. She’s a professor of theirs at Cornell, and they feel very strongly that she is AWESOME and should be more widely known. Then Dana read the first part of this poem, “Veal,” to me, and my jaw dropped. “That IS awesome,” I said. They pushed me out the door with two of her books and some blueberry buckle. Or was it the lemon blueberry tart? I forget – they were both delicious. But the POEMS, people! Oh. My. God. I find myself in total agreement: we should all know who Phyllis Janowitz is.

See what you think:

I love to watch the butcher
wipe the sharp
blade on his
apron stained
with fresh blood. I’m
going to marry him


the side of beef split open
he tenderly spreads
it like a woman’s legs
between smeared fingers
stroking the cold smoothness

from his fingertips
———–bloody red
drops on the floor spotting
the sawdust there fluffs of fat
lie covered decently
the meat is red and lean.

Want more? Here’s the rest. And spread the word.

(*I’m a vegetarian. I still like the poem. I’m pretty sure it’s not really about meat.)

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Yay! Our sisters in two-girl-blogdom, Franki and Mary Lee, are hosting this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at A Year of Reading. Thanks, ladies!

19 comments to “Poetry Friday: Not for prudes. Maybe not for vegetarians*, either.”

  1. Lordy I’m blushing. Love letters on a spike.

  2. oooh. WHAM! I’d like to serve this poem to anyone who claims they don’t like poetry.

    Did you see the America’s Next Top Model where they were covered with slabs of meat?

  3. WHAM! That’s some powerful imagery. Definitely not for the prudish. You and the Poets Upstairs are right. Phyllis is someone to watch!

  4. Holy cow! :p I am pretty sure it isn’t about meat too!

  5. cloudscome, I know, I know.

    Sara, NO I DID NOT, but now I’ve looked up some pics, and if I weren’t already veg, this would do it:


    This is exactly why I don’t watch that show. Is that a steak diaper on that woman? Seriously? Aside from the moral atrocity of killing an animal for this hideous photo, I’m pretty sure you can get a disease from that.

    jama, thanks for agreeing.

    and LisaC, nice pun.

  6. Jama – I wish Phyllis was just someone to watch. She’s actually really getting on in years, and is someone whose poetry is going to disappear soon if we’re not careful. I might be wrong, but I believe that all of her books are currently out of print. Obviously that has no relationship to her talent, which is immense.

  7. Wow. This poem couldn’t be read without involuntary facial expressions! Definitely not of the esoteric variety. Thanks for the introduction to Phyllis.

  8. Dana: Thanks for filling me in. New to me doesn’t mean a new poet. Yet another example of stumbling upon great talent and wondering where I’ve been, why didn’t I know? Thanks for the enlightenment via Eisha!

  9. Ooh, Eisha. I’m telling.

  10. Whew! and I’m reading this at work!!:)

  11. o sweet heavenly buttered biscuits! where has phyllis been all my life?

    (that exclamation is just for eisha and little willow.)

    okay, seriously. well, i am being serious about where has she been all my life for crying out loud. that is just flat-out one of the best poems i’ve read in a long time.

  12. Dana, I’m doing my best here. At least a handful of people have joined her fanclub today, right?

    writer2b, you should try hearing out loud.

    TadMack, what? What? What’d I do? Are you telling my mom, or PETA?

    Lauren, oops. Maybe save it for later.

    jules, I just kinda hope Little Willow doesn’t visit today – I know she’s a vegetarian, she may even be vegan.

  13. i see what you mean, e. but i bet LW would appreciate the artistry of the poem.

    by the way, i meant to say: not only would i consider myself terribly fortunate to have a poet-neighbor, but shoot, i’d be glad simply to have one who sends me home with delicious blueberry and lemon treats with words like “buckle” in the title.

  14. Dude, I KNOW. And I have nothing to offer in return but a few used ARCs.

  15. We keep you around because you’re really entertaining. Plus, you have good YA book recommendations. And because you eat our food. If I ate all of the sweets we baked, I’d be in trouble.

    By the way, there’s cookies if you want them!

    And thank you for posting Phyllis’ poems. I’m glad people are reading and loving her! You are teh awesome!

  16. Two-girl blogging rocks, dunnit? Great pick this week. You always get folks talking! (gasping, shouting, etc.)

  17. Dana, the cookies were delicious. Thanks!

    Mary Lee, you KNOW it rocks! I don’t know how the solo-bloggers do it.

  18. Eisha — went to a new Asian market, and came around a corner to hear a “WHAM!” Lo and behold, the butcher…

    I am pretty sure none of the other people had any idea why I sort of folded over, snorting.

  19. hee!

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