Roger McGough, Mersey Poet and National Treasure, has been persuaded by Waitrose to judge poems for their Year of Poetry. The idea seems to be that the winning entries are posted to the competition page and also are displayed in actual Waitrose supermarkets. I have to say I haven’t seen any in store yet (I now live 45 miles from the nearest Waitrose – *shocked face*), and the first round results seem to indicate that one needs to be either a small child or a grandparent to be selected. I don’t know what has happened to Round 2 of the competition but Round 1 results can be seen here. Undeterred, I sent a poem in for Round 2 – and not only have I not heard that I won (!) but the whole competition seems to have folded. So, because you won’t see it in Waitrose, I decided to donate my cheese poem to the Internet.
Not a lot of people know that a couple of years ago I was looking into the idea of becoming a cheesemaker. I went on a proper course and made experimental cheese batches in my own kitchen. It looked like this:
So, I wrote a poem inspired by a quote from writer and all round smart-arse G.K. Chesterton, who obviously thought he was being funny when he said: The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. I regard statements like that as a challenge. It’s only when you get to do some cheesemaking that you realise what a poetic subject cheese actually is.
On the Subject of Cheese
The poets have been silent on the subject of cheese;
of milk, gone bad, come good again,
milk, shapeshifted into solid character
by sly bacteria, the maker’s hands
and the wild herbs of the pasture.
Cheese is poetry in edible form;
the subtle alchemy of heat, salt, pressure,
the white and blue moods of ripening mould
and the long, cool patience of the cellar.