In Good Morning, America (1928) Carl Sandburg wrote thirty-eight definitions of poetry. My two-day one-fruit detox (apples) has left me a little obsessed with food and drink, so this one stands out:
Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.
I wrote a poem once about hyacinths (inspired by one of the Louise Glück flower poems), but it’s in a huge pile of So-so poems that I’m going through this week and it may not survive the cull. As for biscuits, I can only offer broken ones. It’s a long prose poem that was published by Valley Press in their Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry last year. I rarely do politic poems and I rarely do rants…
Is there poetry in broken biscuits? Discuss. The short answer is yes, provided it is articulated in the unashamedly Yorkshire, tongue-in-cheek, twinkle-in-the-voice tones of Ian McMillan of The Verb. You need a risk assessment now before being allowed to step onto a soapbox: its size, the maximum weight of poet it may carry. There is the marshal in a fluorescent jacket, carrying a walkie-talkie, clipboard and stopwatch, holding at bay some members of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Biscuits. Biscuits are indexed and cross-referenced, generic categories and brand names listed: Bourbon, broken, chocolate, chocolate (milk), chocolate chips, chocolate digestive (Milk Chocolate & Orange Digestive), digestive, dunking….. Specifications are laid out, spelled out and laid down for the packaging of biscuits. Here the blue and orange house colours of McVitie’s nestle up with the listing of the ingredients: wheat flour, dried whey, cocoa mass, along with emulsifiers (soya lecithin, E476, natural vanilla flavouring), raising agents (sodium bicarbonate, ammonium bicarbonate, tartaric acid, malic acid). A touch then of the barbarous, barbaric, acidic and malicious. Raising agents might be the euphemistic title for these officials. Some Government-funded scheme would have lifted people off the scrapheap in a cold and distant Northern town; the group photo – five of them smiling in their smart uniform – appeared in the Echo, and now they do their daily rounds: moving beggars along, breaking up groups of young men loitering, or giving the impression that they are, or might be soon. The faded For Sale signs creak in the windy cave of a shopping mall, windows are boarded up and people – young girls in anoraks, smoking, pushing their friends; pensioners with stick and Zimmer frames – queue up in Penny and Pound shops for bags of broken biscuits.