American Life in Poetry: Column 166

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Texas poet R. S. Gwynn is a master of the light touch. Here he picks up on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ sonnet “Pied Beauty,” which many of you will remember from school, and offers us a picnic instead of a sermon. I hope you enjoy the feast!

Fried Beauty

Glory be to God for breaded things—
   Catfish, steak finger, pork chop, chicken thigh,
         Sliced green tomatoes, pots full to the brim
With french fries, fritters, life-float onion rings,
    Hushpuppies, okra golden to the eye,
            That in all oils, corn or canola, swim

Toward mastication’s maw (O molared mouth!);
    Whatever browns, is dumped to drain and dry
             On paper towels’ sleek translucent scrim,
These greasy, battered bounties of the South:
                            Eat them.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2005 by R. S. Gwynn, whose most recent book of poetry is No Word of Farewell: Poems 1970-2000, Story Line Press, 2001. Poem reprinted from Light: A Quarterly of Light Verse, No. 50, Autumn, 2005, by permission of R. S. Gwynn. Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.