Thursday, April 5, 2012

let the table speak, dawg: poetry & hot dogs in provo

today was just.

totally rad.

& i don't say that lightly.
sandals--ready for spring break, still

totally rad day--eating dogs in the parking lot

1)  i did my first recording session in studio y with c.  it was one of the hardest and best experiences of my life.  i had to be a beginner again, and it was so good for me.  i probably don't have time, and you probably don't want to read 5000 words on this topic, but let me briefly summarize.  have you ever heard recordings of yourself?  it's painful.  and, while i love to sing and think i have some things to offer as a vocalist, i think of myself as a writer, and today i realized how much i have to learn.  the weird thing is, those four hours taught me more than years of singing, practicing, lessons, etc.  it was a baptism of fire.  for the first two hours i wanted to scream and run out of the building.  i had to squelch my pride, ego, perfectionism, etc., and that alone was worth the pain.  i coached myself through it by using all the stuff i tell my students about writing.  so i tried to practice what i preach.  i feel real good right now, in case you can't tell.

 2) went to dean's sweatshop yoga class and sweated.  we need to sweat more, don't we?  that made me feel real good, too.

3) rewarded ourselves with hot dogs from j-dawgs.  this place is a provo classic (for a list of more provo classics, check out this post.) j-dawgs is a local joint that started out as a hot dog stand near campus.  cheap, tasty, local, and simple.  they make their own sausages in salt lake, and their own special sauce, and commission homemade buns from shirley's (another provo classic).  you can order your dogs "g", "pg", "pg-13", or "r", in a nod to mormon culture.  i get my dog "pg-13"--onions, sauce (i go light on the sauce), a great pickle, and banana peppers.  i embellish with a lot of spicy mustard.  "r" is just like pg-13 only with jalapenos.

you know who really got me into hot dogs?  one of our fabulous guest bloggers, marni.  go check her out if you haven't yet.

4)  posted my guest prompt for poetry month at book balloon (i'm guest prompting there each wednesday).  you should really register for book ballon and participate in the daily poem prompts on their forum--poet janet mcadams is posting daily instructions, and she'll also give you some feedback, as will other writers on the forum, so it's like a free poetry workshop.

i'm also posting today's guest prompt here, in case you want to try it.  the poets who posted their poems on book balloon came up with some really lovely pieces.

i'm gonna do my poem about tonight's meal at j-dawgs:  it was warm but cooling off as night fell, a full moon was floating over the mountains, sitting on a cast-iron table in an asphalt parking lot (reminded me of another great night in a parking lot--shakespeare in the parking lot with julie).

here's the prompt.  try it, and post it in comments if you want.

Let the Table Speak

By Lara Candland

I’m taking the idea from today’s prompt from one of my favorite poems, Li-Young Lee’s “Eating Together.”  In this poem, Lee uses a very spare and precise description of a family meal after his father’s death.  His poem is completely void of any “telling”—he never says they are grieving, or that the family misses their father, or even that he has died.  And yet we know all this because of what and how the family eats:

Eating Together

By Li-Young Lee

In the steamer is the trout  
seasoned with slivers of ginger,
two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil.  
We shall eat it with rice for lunch,  
brothers, sister, my mother who will  
taste the sweetest meat of the head,  
holding it between her fingers  
deftly, the way my father did  
weeks ago. Then he lay down  
to sleep like a snow-covered road  
winding through pines older than him,  
without any travelers, and lonely for no one.

Here are your instructions:

1)    Describe a meal being eaten (it can be real or imagined).
2)    Focus on WHAT is being eaten and HOW it is being eaten.
3)    Try to avoid using abstract words or telling readers what the emotional tone of the meal is.  Let the WHAT and the HOW and the concrete details of the poem, like description of the food being eaten, the smells, sights, and sounds of the meal, and the characters present at the table (or car, or picnic blanket, or hogan floor, etc.), speak for themselves. 
4)    For example, if a food makes you feel sick or sad or confused, don’t tell that in the poem, but try to convey the sadness or confusion through the drab color of the tablecloth, or the smell of  the blown out candle at the table.  If it makes you feel happy, try to convey that with the taste and look of a bright yellow lemon, etc.
5)    You might want to try your hand at Lee’s minimalist style.  Notice how much emotional content he wrings out of those twelve short lines.  Can you do more with less?  That’s the real challenge and joy of this poem.

j-dawg bliss

polish dawg, pg-13

legwear: yoga pants & new sandals

inspiration:  the beginner's mind

looking forward: family time in az.


  1. First, LOVE the sandals! Second, I am so glad that I have introduced you to the mighty hot dog. Part of me loves, most of all, the humble skinny turkey dog pulled off the roller at Hart's of Provo, on a squishy wonder bread bun, ketchup and relish. But that J-Dawg is looking good. I wish wish wish I could go to Dean's hot box yoga w/you. I never get to go to yoga these days. Too much damn stuff to do. Must go more often. I am writing poems based on Moby Dick, which is one of my new annual reads. And WOW about the recording. I could not do it. You amaze me. xoxo

    1. we need to plan our summer seattle trip. i love the gas station hot dog, too. & i've been reading moby dick daily for the past nine months, like scripture & writing poems based on the readings. we must be in some kinda parallel universe.