Wine and Poetry
My siblings recently sent copies of poems we read while growing up, a few of which we had to memorize (as required) for school. These included Ozymandias (King of Kings) by Shelley, and Fair Daffodils by Robert Herrick. There was also mention of Poems on the Underground in the UK (where passengers appreciated poetry placed on billboards), as well as Poetry in Motion, where the same took place along New York’s public transport system.
Good verse includes compact, powerful imagery that hits our emotions. Poetry is the literary equivalent of – ? Perhaps Red Bull. Or whiskey. Maybe wine.
During the opening scene of the classic movie Bottle Shock, a helicopter cruises over hills and vineyards while a voice recalls words of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson (which are also written on the entrance sign to Napa, California), that ‘Wine is bottled poetry.’
Shakespeare never doubted the power of the grape, and in Antony and Cleopatra wrote:
Come, thou monarch of the vine,
Plumpy Bacchus with pink eyne
In thy fats our cares be drown’d,
With thy grapes our hairs be crown’d!
Cup us till the world go round,
Cup us till the world go round!
John Keats’s wrote Wine Poem: Women, Wine, and Snuff
[* always shall be]
Go fetch to me a pint o wine,
And fill it in a silver tassie;
That I may drink, before I go,
A service to my bonie lassie:
Jonathan Swift wrote about the power of an empty wine bottle, unearthed in 1722, in Stella’s Birthday – describing it as though it were a womb containing medicine.
Behold the bottle, where it lies
With neck elated toward the skies!
The god of winds and god of fire
Did to its wondrous birth conspire;
And Bacchus for the poet’s use
Pour’d in a strong inspiring juice.
See! as you raise it from its tomb,
It drags behind a spacious womb,
And in the spacious womb contains
A sovereign medicine for the brains.
Part of the poem Ode to Wine, by Pablo Neruda, is below. This Chilean romantic had homes in both the city of Valparaiso, as well as along the coast of Chile. I was fortunate enough to visit both when I began writing Vino Voices years ago. Inside his beach house we learned how Neruda, renowned lover and poet, drank wine out of multi-colored glasses because he believed they changed a wine’s flavor.
My darling, suddenly
the line of your hip
becomes the brimming curve
of the wine goblet,
your breast is the grape cluster,
your nipples are the grapes,
the gleam of spirits lights your hair,
and your navel is a chaste seal
stamped on the vessel of your belly,
your love an inexhaustible
cascade of wine,
light that illuminates my senses,
the earthly splendor of life.
Want to invest in a decent book of poetry? Consider the classic Norton Anthology of Poetry, a serious tome to plonk beside your nightstand. 100 Best-Loved Poems, a bit slimmer, includes more classics than contemporary verse. My favorite, because it’s a paperback stuffed with verse, and also light enough to have packed away for a two-year trip to Africa with the Peace Corps years ago, is Immortal Poems of the English Language.
Next time you’re alone with a glass of wine, turn off the TV. Try enjoying some verse instead.