Slate Poem: “Dinner Theater”

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This week’s poem from Slate is, fittingly, about a dinner party and all of the characters who might be present. As we all gather for Thanksgiving dinners with interesting family members, check out Alfred Corn’s poem entitled Dinner Theater. And since you probably have some free time right now (come on, face it, you’ve already checked out for the Thanksgiving holiday), take a few minutes and listen to Alfred Corn read his poem, thanks to the Slate arts page.

Alfred Corn, according to his page on, has published many books of poetry, including  All Roads at Once (1976), Notes from a Child of Paradise (1984), Present (1997), Stake: Selected Poems (1972-1992), and Contradictions (2002), which was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. Corn has also published critical essays, a novel called Part of His Story, and has contributed to The New York Times Book Review and The Nation. Corn has received fellowships and prizes from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Academy of American Poets, and the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine. His last teaching engagement was at the Poetry School in London for 2005-2006.

Dinner Theater, by Alfred Corn

Characters treading not quite level pine
Boards number, first, Carafe, who’s sweating beads
Of coolant on her Delft-blue leaves and birds.
Then enter Sirloin, crusty, rare, supine,

Giving his aromatic agony
Away in pink tears drained into the dark
Platter’s symmetrically branching tree.
Sharp Knife starts bantering with Mrs. Fork—

Quips and metallic comments re Parsnip,
The fossil he’s been trying to butter up.
Pepper’s gambits are pungent, but poor Salt
Gets maudlin as the meal slows to a halt.

And now the attentive, worn-out Napkins, who move
Toward lips whose service, too, resembles love.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s poem, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan


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