O is for Ode

I am actually not as big a fan of the ode as I think I am. 

Let me explain: I really like the word ‘ode.” It reminds me of that Billy Collins’ poem where he describes reading a favorite haiku as “eating the same, small perfect grape/ again and again.” To me, the word ‘ode’ is like that grape. It’s a perfect, joyful syllable. I like that when I write odes in my head, I feel like Walt Whitman and I want to start all my lines with “I sing…” 

I tend to like things that make me feel more like Whitman.  And I love the ode in theory. But in practice? …I like odes a lot, just not anywhere near as much as I like the word “ode” all on its own. Maybe the Whitman comparison can continue to be useful: Whitman is in a lot of ways an informal poet—not to say that his poetry doesn’t have form, it obviously does (and what form it is, too!)—but his form is about looseness, breath, inclusion. It isn’t rigid or overly ceremonious, as some (even really great) odes are.

So while I love Keats, like Horace, love Sappho, etc., here’s an example of the sort of ode I really, really love, the sort of ode-grape I could eat all day: 


She minces squid and a marinated scallion,
Mixes rice with shrimp and olive paste. . . .
Hope for the English meal, though half Italian
With her jet black hair and her elastic waist.

Unlike the other television cooks,
She brings to life a lobster that was dead
With common spices, her exotic looks,
And recipes she dreamed about in bed.
~ Wilmer Mills
(if you’re unfamiliar with Nigella Lawson, treat yourself to www.nigella.com):

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