Poetry is like Bread
“On our earth, before writing was invented, before the printing press was invented, poetry flourished. That is why we know that poetry is like bread; it should be shared by all, by scholars and by peasants, by all our vast, incredible, extraordinary family of humanity.” That is an excerpt from “Poetry is Bread” by Pablo Neruda, a famous poet from Chile.
Bread appears in so many places in poetry it’s almost hard to choose where to start! A quick search found 464 poems dedicated directly to bread of all sorts – white, ginger, banana – you name it. Famous poets including Dylan Thomas, Margaret Atwood, and performance poets like Spikey Tim all talk about bread in their poems.
US Poet Laureate Billy Collins‘s poem “Litany” is one of Collins’s best-known, begins with a series of ingenious metaphors in which the speaker’s lover is compared to a number of surprising and unexpected objects. It opens:
You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine.
Margaret Atwood might be better known for “The Handmaid’s Tale” but in her poem “All Bread” she talks about the fertile earth helping grains to grow, the grains that will be made into bread and the poem goes on to say that
All bread must be broken
so it can be shared.
Kamau Brathwaite in his poem, simply called Bread evokes the smell, sounds and sight of bread being prepared, kneaded, baked, sliced, sold, as well as deeper metaphorical meanings.
This one by Richard Levine, again just called “Bread”describes the poet’s Grandfather driving through “Brooklyn’s deserted streets following trolley tracks to the bakery” and bringing home
“a loaf that steamed when we sliced it,
softened the butter…”
– you can almost smell it!
Finally, you won’t be surprised that so many Irish poets also write about bread and how it reminds them of happy childhoods. Just listen to the beautiful poem by Brendan Kennelly performed by Sarah Buckley and Martina Keane (link below).
Bread is such an important part of our daily lives, of our diet, it’s no wonder that so many
Poets write about it or refer to it or use it as a metaphor in their writing. We hope you can
take a little time to read some of those we have selected. Enjoy!
Read more lovely bread poems:
Kamau Brathwaite 1930 – 2020 https://www.poetrybyheart.org.uk/poems/bread/
Richard Levine – Bread -
Poetry is Bread podcast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9phFOfZlz4
Pablo Neruda - https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/pablo-neruda
“All Bread,” from Two Headed Poems. Copyright 1978 Margaret Atwood. Used with the permission of Simon & Schuster. https://onbeing.org/programs/margaret-atwood-all-bread/
Litany by Billy Collins https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=41391
Bread & Milk, by Martin Dyer https://www.poetryireland.ie/publications/poetry-ireland-review/online-archive/view/bread-and-milk
The Loaf by Paul Muldoon https://poetryinvoice.ca/read/poems/loaf
Brendan Kennelly "BREAD" https://youtu.be/rzo6KlZ02aM
“A Corner of Bread” by Richard Edwards, Poetry Magic 4, Edited by Ruskin Bond
Famous Bread Poems by Famous Poets https://www.poetrysoup.com/famous/poems/bread
Why Did the Baguette Cross the Road? - Robert Hershon (1936- ) is the author of thirteen poetry collections, including Goldfish and Rose (Hang Loose Press, 2013).