Friday, August 19, 2005

Breaking Bread with Karen Kovacik

When I tell people I write poetry, they always ask what it to picking out a flavor of ice cream. I write mint chocolate chip poems. Ah, if only the answer were that simple. So after some thought, I think I have my answer. I write poems about humanity...poems that ask us to imagine our lives and the lives of others. Poetry is somewhat like a heartbeat, it allows us to hear our own lives. When I think about most of my poems, I realize they are heavily people centered. There is always a character (Ramona, the artists, Doris, the woman...)

I think poetry is something that we can use to speak to and understand one another. I'll give an example here. Karen Kovacik's new book Metropolis Burning has just been published by the Poetry Center at Cleveland State University. Below you will find one of her poems (I may have messed up some of the line breaks due to the copy/paste function). Break bread with her...

With electricity cut by NATO bombs, she waits in candlelight for her customers. —New York Times photo caption, May 24, 1999

Her shoulders ache.
In ten minutes they will wander in from the cellars,
wanting breakfast for the children,
a sandwich loaf, something crusty that would stand up to soup.
The line will curl through the dark shop.
They will point, choose, and their purchases she will tally by hand.
Later, there’ll be a rock concert, a rally.
By then, if she’s lucky, she’ll be asleep under feathers,
dreaming of the tiny horns named for cuckolds
and whether they will lose their curl in the ovens,
for the young ones, deprived of Ninja Turtles,
are hungry for these pointy buns.


This is my body, this is yours
The sour mother rising in the bowl
will bring forth fingers, horns, and plaits
O armpit of pumpernickel,
groin of corn give it to us black and blonde
Sink into the beds of our bellies and grow us new bones


Offer it with salt to welcome a weary traveller
Sign each braid with a cross before baking
He who steps on a crumb will make the souls in limbo weep
Drop a slice on the floor—kiss it before eating
Salute the bride with a loaf, and she will be happy in bed


Blessed are the Slovenes, for they are the cake-makers
Blessed are the Croats, for they excel at fish
Blessed the Dalmatians, for their black wine gave birth to philosophy
Blessed the Montenegrins, for their honey pastries console bitter coffee
Blessed, too, the Bosnians for the subtlety of their tongues—
who else would season veal with lemon and hibiscus?
Blessed the Serbs, for their bean soup makes foreign clerics sweat
Blessed the Herzegovinians, for their silver wine strengthens friendships
Blessed the Macedonians, for their puddings of pumpkin sweeten a heavy feast
Blessed the Albanians for their love of cinnamon
And blessed are the olive trees and vineyards, goats and sheep,
for they serve both parable and table
Blessed are the mint and dill, for they are the peacemakers
And blessed the yeast and sponge, the sour-gray loaves, for they have inherited the earth

Karen Kovacik was born in East Chicago, Indiana, in 1959. She currently teaches creative writing and literature in the Department of English at Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis. Her book, Beyond the Velvet Curtain, winner of the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize, appeared from Kent State University Press in fall 1999. Her translations of contemporary Polish poetry have appeared in , and Graham House Review.

1 comment:

Wise Cracker said...

I love this line of your entry...

Poetry is somewhat like a heart beat, it allows us tohear our own lives.