“How to Eat a Poem”
by Eve Merriam
Don’t be polite.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that
may run down your chin
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.
You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.
For there is no core
to throw away.
All told, the copy I hold in my hand of Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle is not much to look at from the outside. It’s a wide, hardcover book, devoid of any dust jacket, plain and pea-green with boxy gold lettering for the title. But open it up and there is a tantalizing feast of poems waiting to be devoured.
In my opinion, this book is ideal for inducting new readers of poetry, young and old alike -- especially those who view poetry as too daunting or “lofty” for pleasure reading. The first few pages of Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle offer candid advice on how to read a poem without being condescending, finishing with the above poem. It is the first of a collection of pithy verses rife with accessible imagery and evocative cadences that make going through this book feel like rifling through a box of chocolates. Who’d have thought you could feel such a wide range of emotions -- from pity to vulnerability to wonder -- from a description of a giraffe?
It’s also worth mentioning that half of the poems in this book were hand-selected by students and that there are photographs interspersed throughout the pages to help contextualize many of the poems. It’s National Poetry Month -- want to try reading poems for fun? Try Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle. You just might be surprised.