Bread Soup: An Old Icelandic Recipe
Start with the square heavy loaf
steamed a whole day in a hot spring
until the coarse rye, sugar, yeast
grow dense as a black hole of bread.
Let it age and dry a little,
then soak the old loaf for a day
in warm water flavored
with raisins and lemon slices.
Boil it until it is thick as molasses.
Pour it in a flat white bowl.
Ladle a good dollop of whipped cream
to melt in its brown belly.
This soup is alive as any animal,
and the yeast and cream and rye
will sing inside you after eating
for a long time.
Born in Minneota, Minnesota, in 1943, Bill Holm is the grandson of four Icelandic immigrants. He still spends most of the year in Minneota, where he recently retired after teaching Literature and Creative Writing for 27 years at Southwest Minnesota State University. Holm proudly shares his immigrant ancestors' passion for poetry, music, and nature. He spends his summers summers at his little house on a northern Iceland fjord where he writes, practices the piano, and waits for the first dark after three months of daylight. He is the author of nine books, both poetry and essays. His most recent prose book is Eccentric Islands (Milkweed Editions, 2000).
TRY YOUR HAND AT WRITING A POEM
Write the directions for doing…anything. Making a pot roast, changing the oil in your car, setting the flags on a ski-racing course, building a Lego Castle. Use strong nouns and verbs in your description of the task. Look closely at how the last seven lines of Holmes’s poem move away from the actual directions into something larger, and try to do the same in the poem you write.