Remarks on Poetry and the Physical World

By Mary Barnard 1909–2001 Mary Barnard
After reading Ash Wednesday
she looked once at the baked beans   
and fled. Luncheonless, poor girl,   
she observed a kind of poetic Lent—
and I had thought I liked poetry   
better than she did.

I do. But to me its most endearing
quality is its unsuitableness;
and, conversely, the chief wonder in heaven   
(whither I also am sometimes transported)   
is the kind of baggage I bring with me.

Surely there is no more exquisite jointure   
in the anatomy of life than that at which   
poetry dovetails with the inevitable meal   
and Mrs. B. sits murmuring of avocados.

Mary Barnard, “Remarks on Poetry and the Physical World” from Collected Poems (Portland: Breitenbush, 1979). Used by permission of the Estate of Mary Barnard.

Source: Poetry (August 1938).


This poem originally appeared in the August 1938 issue of Poetry magazine

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August 1938
 Mary  Barnard


Mary Barnard was born in Vancouver, Washington and attended Reed College where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1932. Her works include A Few Poems (1952), The Mythmakers (1966), Three Fables (1975) and Nantucket Genesis: The Tale of My Tribe (1988). She was awarded Poetry Magazine’s Levinson Award in 1935, the Elliston award for her book Collected Poems (1979), the Western States Book Award in 1986 for her book Time and . . .

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SUBJECT Religion, Arts & Sciences, Eating & Drinking, Christianity, Activities, Poetry & Poets

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