Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Sweetness of Fudge and the Death of Allusion

On Labor Day, I went to several get-togethers--that's just the kind of social butterfly I am. Actually, my friend had 2 different get-togethers at her house, so I made one big pan of fudge. At the later get-together, the one where boys were allowed, one of the males ate a piece of my fudge, made a face like he'd bitten into something bitter and nasty, and said, "My, it's sweet." He said it with extreme distaste, like sweetness is a bad thing. He took another nibble and wrinkled his nose. "It's very sweet."

Well, yes, it's fudge. That's the whole nature of fudge, is it not? What kind of world are we living in, when people react to sweet fudge like they're eating dog poo?

My wonderful husband, on the other hand, licked the plate when we tested the fudge on Sunday night and said in a swoony voice, "It tastes like Christmas!" Yes, yes, it does, because we generally only make it once a year outside of Christmas.

This whole encounter made me think of definitions and metaphors and the implications for poetry. If we live in a world where sweetness is bad, I've got lots of metaphors I need to think about. I've already revisited bread as a metaphor, once everybody went on these ridiculous carb-free diets. I revisited the metaphor, and I decided to stick with the metaphor. Bread as nourishment goes way back--who am I to tinker with that metaphor? If anti-sweet freaks interpret my poems the wrong way, well, I'll learn to live with that.

It reminds me of how many allusions are lost to us as writers. Once we could assume that everyone had a basic understanding of the Bible, a basic understanding of Greek mythology, and a basic understanding of at least some of the literary classics, like Shakespeare. Now we make that assumption at our peril. I'll keep making those allusions--with the understanding that some of my poems will require explanatory notes, once they're part of a larger collection. That's cool. My students have prepared me for this need.

But what kind of Orwellian world are we living in where sweet is bad, where fudge is bad because it's sweet?

1 comment:

Shefali Shah Choksi said...

too much sweet DOES break one's mouth; reminds me of "Harlem", you know, "crust and sugar over, like a syrupy sweet," like something so sweet that it makes the open nerve in my tooth cavity throb.
nothing wrong with a healthy, bitter serving of coffee!