Patrice Vecchione at Fandango's

In The Knot Untied (2013), a luminous new collection of poems by Patrice Vecchione, there is a poem entitled “Cabbage.”  I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that not many poems have likely been written about cabbage.  (If you know of any good cabbage poems, please share them in the comments section below.)  Yet amidst all the world’s poems about flowers and trees and berries and wine, why shouldn’t there be a poem about cabbage?  In fact, Vecchione’s poem is about memory: the poet’s eighty-three-year old aunt is incredulous that her niece has forgotten whether a dish prepared decades ago was made with red or green cabbage.  In life, as in literature, the details matter.  Remembering matters.  The poem reminds us of those still-bright sparks of memory that may persist in each of us, despite the passage of time and the inevitable forgetting it leaves in its wake.

“Cabbage” is also one of the poems in The Knot Untied that refers to food, an aspect of Vecchione’s book that will be celebrated at an upcoming event at Fandango restaurant, in Pacific Grove, with proceeds from the event benefiting the Food Bank of Monterey County.

“Poetry resides in the five senses,” Vecchione, who lives in Monterey, tells me in a recent phone interview.  “And hunger is of particular interest to me.  In a wealthy country such as ours, no one should ever have to be hungry.  I don’t like being hungry; it makes me scared.”

At Fandango, appetizers will be created using ingredients that are mentioned in Vecchione’s poems (some possibilities include tomato, basil and mozzarella; apricots and strawberries and peaches; honey and fennel; cake, soda crackers, salt).  The event represents just one of the several creative paths Vecchione has forged to promote her new book.

“I wanted to do events that connect poetry to the community in ways that are not typical,” she says.

That kind of community-based creativity also shaped how Vecchione published her book.  When her agent told her it could take a year or more to find a traditional publisher, Vecchione decided to find another way.  Using Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform similar to Kickstarter, Vecchione raised the money to publish her book in only three months.  She considers everyone who contributed, whether it was $25 or $1500, as equal publishers.

“It’s a new idea,” she says, “to form a collective of people to publish a book.  But the state of publishing is not a pretty picture.  I was glad to take my work out of the hands of New York.”

The Knot Untied explores the variety of ways we are bound to and unbound from one another, how we can become tied up in a relationship or an idea, how it all can come apart.  At the collection’s heart are several poems about the poet’s troubled bond with her mother.  In “My Gordion Knot,” the angry outbursts of the poet’s mother “[spins] the dust of a thousand years,” clotting the child’s throat and robbing her of her voice.

Yet even in the suffering, there is the solace of nature, of the imagination, of language.  In “Land of Sorrow,” there are types of sadness, including a light, present-day kind of sadness that is “bald as a hatchling before feathers.”  And here, in its entirety, is “The Astonishment of Spring”:

 

Though my life is in tatters

and I am afraid, the young deer

shakes the dew from her coat

before slowly crossing the road

and in the field of blackbirds

there is singing.

 

Fandango’s will serve appetizers inspired by The Knot Untied on Thursday, May 9, from 5:30-7:00 p.m.  Vecchione will be there to read from her book and sign copies.  Cost: $40; for reservations, visit http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5527167908#.  For information about Vecchione’s additional upcoming appearances in the Monterey Bay area and beyond, visit her website.