Sunday, September 15, 2013

Baking Bread is as Hard as I Thought It Would Be

In a charmingly clear essay called "The Intentional Fallacy," which I am preparing to teach to my Literary Theory class this week, William Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley wrote,
Judging a poem is like judging a pudding or a machine. One demands that it work. ... Poetry is a feat of style by which a complex of meaning is handled all at once. Poetry succeeds because all or most of what is said or implied is relevant; what is irrelevant has been excluded, like lumps from pudding and 'bugs' from machinery.
I read this, and then I went to a bread-baking class, and the combination of Wimsatt & Beardsley and yeast was this poem. I have not written a poem in a long while, and I've never made bread from scratch.

How does one judge a loaf of bread?

Not as early as monks, but not as late as students
A morning more humid indoors than out
Seven or eight maybe, imperfections
In a church kitchen.
Unseen hands had heated the milk
Counted the yeast
Distributed spoons.
A wheelchair, a walker, one eye blind and one wandering,
All of us kneading for the sake of our souls
Unequal to our uneven ovens
With no leader, weak lighting, glass loaf pans, cold tea
A rising, then, a falling:
Mine, puckered, but still nourishing.
What is the standard by which we disown or accept the self?