based on the essay below received from Liz Balise**
all poems and their accompaniment sauces begin with onions
start by fouling the air, bringing forth only unrestricted tearings
the slow cooking elicits the sugars hid within,
the unpleasant odor, refined into something
minted new sweet and savory.
so too, the poem must simmer, slow cooked,
harmonizing the caramelizing,
even if some ingredients
claim the first born birthright of the eldest first essential,
despite the collective harmonizing.
the ripened color of the blood red tomatoes,
the ruddy cheery sanguinity of
certain words in each poem,
are the coloration of its entirety -
the ones your never forgive for never letting you forget them!
what matters not but how, the daring to substitute the new how,
how you chef see it and color it with the crazy way how
you beckon us over one by one to the big *** for a tasting
accepting critiques and suggestions, a thousand pinches
of your salty sweet essences.
and the recipe is dog stained and pointy corner ear-edged,
cause you cannot exactly write it down, and you bend the corner
for every substitution and variation,
cause every poem
made to taste the how of us,
each one a subtle different.
everyone understands metaphor,
even the society of the reticent ones in the back row,
just say the “trapdoor of depression” and they’ll nod knowingly,
so say to them a poem is a metaphor for you,
and spaghetti sauce is how you see, recreate in words,
how you need to add an ingredient of yourself
to this one,
a word, a phrase, becomes you in it, in you,
you in it are both poet and poem
and a simmering new and different
A Well Written Essay— The Spaghetti Sauce Method
As a teacher and a learner, I have always wanted to see the "nuts and bolts" of everything. Yes, it slows the process down, but the learning is more complete, and a person becomes capable of making endless connections of understanding, branching to other creative possibilities. Writing like dancing, and all that is worth learning, deserves all of the pieces and steps of the process.
I remember telling my students every year that grammar could indeed be a dry bone, but necessary in the process of good communication. Told them that I would teach writing by the "spaghetti sauce method" (Visualize their perplexed faces here.). "A well-written essay should be like a really good sauce-- smooth, fine textured, with a complete harmony of meat, sweet, tomato, and seasonings-- not one overpowering the others, but all in marvelous union of great flavor and aroma."
I continued, giving the example of my mother's
(God rest 'er) Irish spaghetti sauce" as a contrast. "Mama would throw in onions, peppers (if she had ‘em), hamburger, salt and pepper, fry it all in corn oil, and mix with two cans of plain tomato sauce. This was all okay with me," I went on,“ till I experienced the epiphany of garlic, basil, oregano, pork neck bones and a cup of wine; in the kitchen of an Italian neighbor, who walked me through the process and ingredients of real Italian sauce that was simmered for hours."
I continued to nudge them with the comparison: "Excellent writing is more than talent and passion, otherwise a tirade of curses, knotted ideas, and copied paragraphs of someone else would always do.” "No," I went on, "It is clear thought, captured, slow-cooked in the labor of mind and understanding— and in good time, expressed, in a way that others can comprehend -- with great attention to the cardinal rule: It is not as much WHAT you say-- but HOW you say it."
Through the year I focused on one or two aspects of better writing at a time for each paper. It was an uphill battle, often teaching against the mediocrity of the expectations in the PA State Standards of Assessment. It would add ten hours to my work week to grade and comment on a set of a 115 papers.