It’s not quite what you might think: Per Diem for July takes a look at a very specific technique utilized in world poetry throughout the ages, as guest editor Stewart C. Baker explains:
List (or catalogue) poetry has been around for thousands of years, with examples to be found in poets and texts as diverse as Homer, the Old Testament, Shakespeare’s sonnets, Walt Whitman, and Allen Ginsberg. List poetry isn’t a form, per se; it’s more of a technique, a poetic effect achieved by the listing and arrangement of disparate elements. In Homer, that tends to the epic, with a catalogue of ships in The Iliad which numbers in the hundreds of lines. Shakespeare catalogues his mistress’s body parts in order to deflate poetic clichés in Sonnet 130,
“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.” Whitman uses the technique often to show the vast, uncataloguable—and often contradictory—glory of the America he loved, while Ginsberg’s treatment in “Howl” does more or less the opposite.
These so-called “recipe” haiku, though, are about rather more humble topics: food, eating, and recipes. As I was making my selections, I tried to find haiku which contained metaphorical as well as literal ingredients. How do tornadoes affect the taste of tea? Exile the taste of coffee? Can you mix pills with dusk? And so on. Thoughts like this often provoke me when reading haiku, where so much of the experience presented has to be inferred by the reader. The poets featured in this collection hail from all over the world, and that too is a sort of recipe. I hope you find the result as pleasing as I do.
These poems will bring your attention to that most necessary activity for all of us, taking sustenance. Enjoy!