The insides of peaches
are the color of sunrise
The outsides of plums
are the color of dusk
-- from Robert Hass's "The Beginning of September" in The Apple Trees at Olema
I often lament that the romance of the leisurely reading of poetry is lost in this current era: too few people, myself included, will curl up and unwind with a book of poetry as we might with the latest trashy novel. And those who do crack open poetry every now and then for "fun" reading are regarded by the general population as some sort of horrible combination of pricks, snobs, posers, or just really weird old cat ladies. Where are the days (maybe they were fictional to begin with) when reading out-loud a passage of completely engaging poetry was a commonplace feature of conversations and general "hanging out"? Why is it that I now have to enjoy poetry alone, in secret, with no one to share a particularly funny or well-written or beautiful line with?
Take my most recent adoration of Robert Hass's poetry, for example. Hass is a well-respected poet of our current time, and he is a professor in the same department from which I received one of my undergraduate degrees five years ago. Regrettably though, while I was still at Berkeley, I never took a course with him, and even more regrettably, (despite the fact that I study language in poetry) I'd never even read a single one of his poems until years after I'd moved to another university. It wasn't until Saveur printed a poem by Hass that I first encountered his work, and from that first poem, I was instantly hooked.
While he writes about so many different subjects, what I love most about Hass are his writings on California and of food. There's something about the way he captures the essence of the Bay Area experience that is so perfect and so charming: he's the one person I've found who is able to put the character, beauty, and mood that I try so hard to convey with images (because I can't find the words) into actual, precise words on a page. And I love the pithiness and brevity in the way he does it -- the entirety of one stanza of the poem "The Beginning of September" consists of merely two words:
...and such perfect words they are.
The plum tree in my backyard has been filling the sky with purple dots everywhere, making me think of Hass's lines about plums every time I look outside my window. I didn't have ripe blackberries around, but I did have a few punnets of boysenberries, which are like blackberries, except more so bursting with tiny nuggets of sweet juice. So this boysenberry and plum cobbler is my version of an edible sunset at dusk. Topped with fistfuls of flaky and lightly salty scone dough, the alternating tartness of plums and sweetness of boysenberries create a tenderly complex fruit compote beneath the cobbler crust. It's what I sat around eating during the sunset yesterday, spooning fruit and scone into my mouth, looking out the window, and thinking about whether Hass was right about my plum tree's movements:
Each thing moves its own way
in the wind. Bamboo flickers,
the plum tree waves, and the loquat
--from Robert Hass's "The Beginning of September"
[top recipe: click on photo for a larger image]
Read on for recipe....