A Favorite Poem (Issue #15)

Hello, bloggers and poem lovers!

Welcome this month’s “A Favorite Poem” installment, in which I share my current favorite poem with you. For the month of August, I am offering you a short, but deep poem from Noah Eli Gordon, an American poet and an MFA professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Cake (by Noah Eli Gordon)

Look, you
want it
you devour it
and then, then
good as it was
you realize
it wasn’t
what you
exactly
wanted
what you
wanted
exactly was
wanting

At a mere fourteen lines and twenty-eight words, Gordon’s “Cake” is by far one of the shortest poems I’ve had featured on my blog. Yet, despite it’s seemingly simple and innocuous surface, there’s so much more to this minimalist work than meets the eye.

Let’s start with the poem’s mechanics in terms of the line structure. As you can see, Gordon writes and finishes the work in one stanza, and the lines seem to flow in a continuous streaming, not stopping until the last word “wanting.” One can imagine that the unceasing quality of the poem gives off the sense of craving, of devouring that cake without stopping until it’s completely finished. Even the lack of punctuation (with the exception of the two commas in the first four lines) serves to speed up the process of the poem’s reading, just like how one speeds up when consuming something delicious. The structure of the lines themselves also say something interesting, as they are constantly cut up (as if by a knife) into a format that looks rather symmetrical, often with two words per line and no more than four. Going back to the commas, it appears that they serve to evoke admonishment for consuming the cake, aka a false sense of satisfaction.

Now, as for the words used this poem, they are are not, in fact, very diverse; it is a work largely based on repetition, with words like “it,” “then,” and “wanted” taking up a good chunk of the poem’s frame. It’s also interesting that the word “cake” isn’t even mentioned within the poem; rather, it is replaced with “it,” which can actually be applied to a metaphorical way of looking at the “cake:” as a kind of object–attainable or unattainable–that appears substantial but in fact lacks substance. Rather, it is the thought, the “wanting,” that seduces the individual to obtain that object, which in reality “wasn’t/what you/exactly/wanted” (7-10). But going back to the repetition of those mentioned words: keeping the poem’s text as unvaried as possible creates a sort of cyclic effect, in which the individual undergoes a full-360 of this experience: from wanting to devouring that want to realizing that what was more important was the want. The last seven lines of the poem especially showcase this idea, and we, as the readers, are left feeling rather bad for the consumer who in the end is unsatisfied.

I could probably go on more analyzing this terse, but rich text. “Cake” is so physically small that it reads off as proverbial, and has that minimalist charm to it as a petite poem Some might even call it bite-sized! 😉

Any case, hope you enjoyed the poem. Take care!

— The Finicky Cynic

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2 thoughts on “A Favorite Poem (Issue #15)

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