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  #1  
Unread 09-04-2019, 10:09 AM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Default Crackers and Cheese: Benjamin's Favorites

Crackers and Cheese: Benjamin's Favorites

Neglected crackers left too long begin
to turn quite harsh: not crisp, but hard; not prim
but grim. They need a hand to gather them,
imperfect as they are, still feminine,
and break them into salty broth. They've been
ignored as dull by everyone--save him
whose strenuous tongue can savor from the rim
the old, renewed, before the spoon goes in.

It seems at first a culinary risk,
a waste, but patient spooning hours by hours
stirs up aromas while the swirling lingers

and turns the whole into a steamy bisque
until at last the satisfaction flowers--
Voilà! Remember now and kiss your fingers.
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  #2  
Unread 09-05-2019, 05:52 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! Who, whut, when, where, why, and how (as in howie supposed to figure this out so as to meaningfully crit?). Romeo Uniform Oscar Kilo? Whiskey Hotel Oscar India Sierra Mike Bravo !?
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  #3  
Unread 09-05-2019, 07:53 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Hey, Daniel!

I was waiting for someone else to get the conversation started, because my views on sex and love and gender equality are often non-standard. And my weird comments tend to steer conversations about poems in weird directions that the authors don't find very helpful to the poems. Apologies in advance if that happens again. But I've waited a day and everyone else seems too busy to comment, so I'll wade in.

[Cross-posted with Allen, who seems bewildered. Maybe this will help you find a foothold on the poem, Allen. Or maybe I've completely misunderstood the poem and will send you down a rabbit hole. Caveat lector.]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On my first reading I thought, "Fourteen lines to say that someone enjoys getting the most out of stale crackers? And L4's 'still feminine' seems a very odd characterization of those stale crackers."

But then I realized that the only way I could make L4's "still feminine" make any sense was to see the whole poem as a veiled metaphor for a man who enjoys giving "neglected" women sexual pleasure in various ways.

If that reading is correct, I don't have an issue with the notion per se, but I'm troubled by the pejorative, disdainful, woman-objectifying tone throughout the poem. Certain female human beings are turned into undesirable inanimate objects who are generally despised as rubbish, but the clever and enterprising protagonist has found a way to recover some value from them.

The obviously self-serving interest that the protagonist lavishes on making these stale crackers fit for his consumption is presented as almost a noble act of altruism and charity, bestowed from a great height upon the unworthy, who should be grateful to be getting any male attention at all.

That contemptuous attitude may be widespread on the part of certain men. And I can't fault the poem for bearing witness to a certain perspective that I don't share. But I don't have to like it, either.

The poem argues that women who have turned unattractively "harsh," "hard," and "grim" from being "neglected" (though to me it seems far more likely it was from being objectified, used, and discarded) are actually a great opportunity to be exploited, provided a guy is willing to work harder to give his female partners pleasure than his male peers might think is necessary or the norm.

Perhaps there's a layer of irony here that is sailing over my head here, as irony often does. Or maybe I'm seeing way, way too much in it, and it really is about the unappreciated joys of stale crackers, and I've got an appallingly filthy mind.

Anyway, that's my take on the poem. Maybe it will get a conversation going.
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  #4  
Unread 09-05-2019, 10:36 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Julie, if your a.f. reading is correct, the views expressed in Daniel’s effort are like a type of expansion of something said by Benjamin Franklin. Congratulations. Very astute. You might be right. Let Daniel correct that if needed. As to the way the views are expressed (if you are correct), I’m sure they could be said more diplomatically or melodically. I’m quite unsure about “crackers”. Wrong in twelve ways, like Wonder Bread.

I’m sure that an approach embodying “wabi-sabi” would be more generally reader friendly: wabi-sabi.

Again assuming your reading, I will try to make up for my own obtuseness by linking to something I found in my explorations of the archeology of popular music. It features Mama Cass of The Mamas and the Papas (all young and unmarried at the time this was made), with a (young) woman’s point of view. Words of Love.
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  #5  
Unread 09-05-2019, 11:01 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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You nailed it, Daniel.

In Big Ben's words:

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/980...r-old-women-to
__________________
Ralph
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  #6  
Unread 09-05-2019, 11:11 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Why does this seem to be the only complete online version of Benjamin Franklin's "Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress"? If only it were "Advice to an Online Publisher on the Choice of a Background Color." Sigh.

But unlike Benjamin Franklin's letter, Daniel's poem doesn't list the advantages of "harsh," "hard," "grim" crackers over fresh ones. It just says that attempting to make a satisfying meal of them is not a complete waste of time and effort. The implication is that fresh ones are still preferable, but old ones will still do nicely if nothing better is available.

The poem also seems to imply that for young and un-neglected women, foreplay is unnecessary. That's...troublingly unrealistic.

Allen, I think Mama Cass Elliot's point in her song is closer to Gary Chapman's point than to Daniel's or Ben Franklin's. I think she's saying that the female protagonist in the song prefers gifts/acts of service/attentiveness/physical touch (sending her "Somewhere where she's never been before"--probably pleasure-wise, given that it's "send") to spoken affirmations of love, which don't cost the "you" of the poem any money or effort.

Words of love, so soft and tender
Won't win a girl's heart anymore
If you love her then you must send her
Somewhere where she's never been before
Worn out phrases and longin' gazes
Won't get you where you want to go, no
Words of love, soft and tender
Won't win her
You oughta know by now
You oughta know, you oughta know by now
Words of love, soft and tender
Won't win her anymore

Ben Franklin's advice is closer to Jimmy Soul's, except applied to a mistress instead of a wife. The attitude of Jimmy Soul's song is transactional: the male gives a female with limited prospects (due to her looks) the increased financial security and child support of marriage, and in exchange the grateful ugly girl gives the guy excellent housekeeping/cooking services and exclusive sexual access.

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So for my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you

A pretty woman makes her husband look small
And very often causes his downfall
As soon as he marries her and then she starts
To do the things that will break his heart

But if you make an ugly woman your wife
A-you'll be happy for the rest of your life
An ug-a-ly woman cooks meals on time
And she'll always give you peace of mind

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So for my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you

Don't let your friends say you have no taste
Go ahead and marry anyway
Though her face is ugly, her eyes don't match
Take it from me, she's a better catch

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So for my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you

Say man!
Hey baby!
I saw your wife the other day!
Yeah?
Yeah, an' she's ugly!
Yeah, she's ugly, but she sure can cook, baby!
Yeah, alright!

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So for my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you

Call me an idealist, but I would hope there's a lot more to love than "you give me this, and I give you that in exchange, and then we're even."

I don't think Daniel's poem needs to change to suit my philosophy. Poems are supposed to bear witness to their own truths. I'm just saying that I find its view of giving women (plural--this fellow seems to be of the "love 'em and leave 'em" school) sexual pleasure to be surprisingly negative, for my taste.

The women aren't even chattel in this scenario--they're completely passive commodities.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 09-06-2019 at 12:25 AM.
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  #7  
Unread 09-06-2019, 08:04 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Hey Julie!

You've got an appallingly filthy mind.

But I do too, you nailed it!--in the denotation at least, though imo, you fly a bit afield in the denotation.

You unraveled the poem just as I hoped it would be unraveled, triggered from the line with the imperfect feminine rhyme, "feminine". Now the tone might be something we agree on, except for the implied imputation to the speaker. He observes and is quite tragically correct that neglected, typically older women A.) are stupidly undervalued and B.) do get a bit mean when neglected/ignored/not-even-objectified. Think about it: who wouldn't? The speaker's attitude is merely one of delight, though crassly so: in his mind he has discovered value that no one else has. And he relishes it. Just pure animal pleasure, no more degrading to them than to himself. Since the poem strongly suggests completion and satisfaction, the person/s on the receiving end of the speaker's affections likely feel/s similarly about the speaker. There's more to say, but I've got to pause for now.

Allen, Allen, Allen...

Not sure the crackah reading is merited, but made me laugh nonetheless. (I'll claim a breadcrumb of authority and permission to enjoy it, my kids are applicably mixed-race.) I'm more liking the wrongness of posting these days, not sin for sin's sake, just utterly worn out with restrictiveness of politics and loving the freedom of indifference. Not insensitivity, indifference. To hypersensitivity. Diplomacy, meh. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt: it was pressed and starchy and tight and chafing. And utterly devoid of real relationship.

Anyway, old Ben went too far, way too far imho (his face wasn't ever much to look at), and I might have too, in citing him, thinking that would be a potentially necessary neon-sign clue-in to the poem. Ben was required reading in high school. Guess maybe I was getting a little sick of my own "preciousness" in the previous "every little thing" stuff. Too much victimhood, too much offended-ness.

As you see from my response to Julie, the speaker's quite equitable --and is taken quite equitably, as one can imply from the climax of the poem.
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  #8  
Unread 09-06-2019, 08:27 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Daniel,

Well, this poem has certainly generated some interesting discussion, and that I think is a worthwhile thing for a poem to do. It seems pretty well-executed to me as well - making for a pleasant musical experience - though the feminine rhyme on fingers was perhaps a bit predictable or jejune. But then maybe that fits neatly with the metaphor. Anyway, my only real nit is the title, which to me feels both a bit coy and a bit heavy-handed. I don't think it does justice to the poem as is.

I'm not a big fan of the POV, but as Julie says, the poem seems true to itself and should obviously and of course be so. That's how art works IMO. And Daniel, I sympathize with your urge to just say stuff and get on with it, instead of second-guessing. I think there's room for that too.

Cheers,
John

Oh - maybe just "Crackers" would work as a title ...
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  #9  
Unread 09-06-2019, 08:59 AM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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This poem hid too well for me to find it.

If it's meant as a puzzle, it's successful for me: I was baffled until someone told me the solution, and then I said, "Okay, that (including the "feminine" thing that made no sense to me) fits." There was some satisfaction and the feeling (as from a good Agatha Christie) that if I'd tried a little harder, I might have been able to figure it out: I'd been given all the clues.

In poems, ideally (I'm talking of course about my own ideals as a reader, which I don't insist you share), everything should work for both the symbol/metaphor and the thing referred to (feminine crackers?) and I shouldn't need anything or anyone outside the poem to explain the poem to me.

FWIW.
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  #10  
Unread 09-06-2019, 09:54 AM
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Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
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Hi Daniel,

I think your next move should be coming up with a much better title. The one you have now suggests a poem about a kid who likes crackers and cheese that would only be enjoyed by his aunts and uncles, who have to enjoy it because it's about their nephew. The right parody in the title--say, on the the title of the letter from Franklin, one that doesn't give it away too much--would provide a portal into what you're doing here.

Rick
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