“The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.”
Joy Harjo

Celebrate food’s role in poetry and culture with the poems and activities below.

Camp Activities

The following activities have been adapted from “Teach This Poem: ‘From Blossoms’ by Li-Young Lee.” They can be done alone or with a guardian, sibling, friend, or partner.

  1. Warm-up: List as many words as possible beginning with the letter b, then do the same thing for p. Share your words with a partner.
     
  2. Read “From Blossoms” by Li-Young Lee. Read it silently and write down the words, phrases, and structures that jump out at you. Share what you’ve noticed with your partner. 
     
  3. Watch the video of Li-Young Lee reading “From Blossoms.” Listen carefully, and play the video a second time. Write down the sounds, words, and phrases that jump out at you. Share what you heard with a partner. 
     
  4. Discuss with a partner or reflect on the following: What are the feelings in this poem? What images and sounds evoke these feelings? Where in the poem does the feeling or tone change? What has the poet done to make this change occur?
     
  5. What might it mean “to take what we love inside, / to carry within us an orchard”? What might that feel like? What is the joy in this poem? What is the sadness? Give evidence for you answers from what you have already noticed in the poem.

Prompt to Do

Take a bite of a fruit or vegetable. Describe it through metaphor or story.

All rights reserved. Excerpted from Write It! 100 Poetry Prompts to Inspire (Spruce Books, 2020) by permission of Sasquatch Books. Written by Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs, designed by Krzysztof Poluchowicz.

Poet to Know

Li-Young Lee

Li-Young Lee was born in 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents.  In 1959, the Lee family fled the country to escape anti-Chinese sentiment and after a five-year trek through Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, they settled in the United States in 1964.

He is the author of The Undressing (W. W. Norton, 2018); Behind My Eyes (W. W. Norton, 2008); Book of My Nights (BOA Editions, 2001), which won the 2002 William Carlos Williams Award; The City in Which I Love You (BOA Editions, 1990), which was the 1990 Lamont Poetry Selection; and Rose (BOA Editions, 1986), which won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award.

With regard to Lee’s work, the poet Gerald Stern has noted that “what characterizes [his] poetry is a certain humility... a willingness to let the sublime enter his field of concentration and take over, a devotion to language, a belief in its holiness.”

He has been the recipient of a Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, among many other honors, awards, and fellowships. Learn more about Li-Young Lee and read more of his work at Poets.org.

Poems to Read

Knoxville, Tennessee” by Nikki Giovanni
Ode to Kool-Aid” by Marcus Jackson
In Pine, Arizona” by Ray Young Bear
In Praise of Okra” by January Gill O'Neil

Term to Learn

This week’s poetic term, repetition, is the poetic technique of repeating the same word or phrase multiple times within a poem or work.