Potatoes and poetry

Today is Gedichtendag, a festive day filled with poetry in Belgium and the Netherlands. As a former literature student, it’s my favorite Thursday of the whole year. Unless I order pizza on a Thursday. It’s my favorite day after that.

Today during lunch break, I wrote down 5 of my favorite poems on paper. Four of them are from writers I never had the chance to meet, one was written by a friend that I share a mutual love for ice cream and chocolate with. And as you may or may not know, people who like ice cream make great writers, that’s the law. I bet Shakespeare loved his vanilla. If you don’t believe me, check out Antz Woorden and see for yourself. Her writings are in Dutch, but chances are you’re my friend, you speak Dutch and you’re reading this  because you kind of have to. If you’re not my friend or you don’t speak Dutch, please do something about it.

I folded the poems I wrote to small poetic packages and put them in my pocket. On my way back home from the office, I dropped the carefully crafted words at random places like subway seats and supermarket shelves. Much like good food, poetry is better when it’s shared. Unless you’re Joey Tribbiani. But in the case of poetry, you should still share.

I dropped the last one in our kitchen. It’s a hymn of praise for the potato and I am sure everyone agrees. Chipped, mashed,? Cooked, fried, I never met a potato I didn’t like. Did you?  If you don’t know Dutch, this poem is a reason to start a course. If you’re looking for an easy way out in English or Spanish: Pablo Neruda liked potatoes too. Now go on and spread the potato, spread the poetry, spread the love. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to mash potatoes now.

Ode aan de aardappel

De aardappel heb ik lief daar hij,
Strevend naar volkomen rondheid,
Altijd ànders rond is,
En oogjes heeft
Als van een blindgeboren diertje.

Ik heb hem lief daar hij, zo lekker,
Door de Groten wordt miskend;
Daar zijn kruid zo lelijk
En zijn bloem zo onaanzienlijk is,

En vooral daar hij
(Alsof hij wist dat hij in vrouwenhand
Belandt)
Bescheiden en beschaamd
Zijn klootjes
Verborgen houdt onder het zand.

Ben Cami.
Uit: De literaire agenda 1987.

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