In poetry, breakfast is not just a meal to start the day. Breakfast is bigger than an Egg McMuffin or a bowl of congee or a steaming cup of cappuccino. It’s bacon and eggs, but with added reflections of familiar faces on the surface of black coffee in thick white mugs. At one table sits a stiff-backed old lady named Europe, methodically dining on her continental breakfast with a brutally sharp knife of a mind. Somewhere else, far away, a young woman speaks coyly to an unseen lover, her supposedly casual invitation to breakfast a seduction brimming over with eggs, potatoes, onions and carnal hungers. Another poet serves us freedom as a breakfast food in an exhilarating roller coaster ride of rollicking banter. And then there’s the humble waitress/cook at a rural truck-stop diner who’s been there forever, cautiously ladling hot grease over the tops of crisp edged and golden sunny-side-up eggs. There’s a lot to love about the poetry of breakfast.
1. Breakfast for Supper by Christine Stewart-Nuñez
Whether you love IHOP or hate it, you can’t escape it. Church groups, families, drunken revelers, Walmart shoppers and low-level gangsters head to IHOP for pancake platters bigger than the table itself, omelets that taste like sand and rubber, garishly colored pastries and lots of cheap coffee—always with free refills. They go to IHOP at all hours of the day and night, seeking lots of food and maybe some answers to all kinds of questions.
2. Sitting Down to Breakfast Alone by Christian Wiman
There’s a special place in the hearts of rural Americans for the humble truck stop in the middle of nowhere—in this poem, way out west in North Dakota—that offers “nothing special” in terms of food, décor, service or style. Some truck stops offer something else, though, that seasons the food in a mysterious way. It’s something given by those who cook, serve, wait and care.
3. Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast by Hannah Gamble
L’amour at breakfast—is it better than at lunch, or at dinner? We don’t use the expressions “lunch in bed,” or “dinner in bed,” but “breakfast in bed” is definitely a thing. Here’s a clear and simple – yet definitely quirky—invitation to breakfast. It’s not like a Hallmark greeting card, but that’s okay.
4. Old Europe Stared at Her Breakfast by Jennifer Maiden
Breakfast is bread, and bread is politics. How we set the table for breakfast and what we choose to put on that table has meaning. Sometimes what’s being served isn’t what we like to eat.
5. [as freedom is a breakfastfood] by e.e. cummings
When reading [as freedom is a breakfastfood] it’s fun to imagine what actual food would be on the literal breakfast table of the poem. The food would represent freedom, of course, but surely freedom is different things to different people. To me, the menu would be expansive, a buffet of grandiose proportions with breakfast foods from all the corners of the earth piled high, almost overflowing—but to another person, perhaps freedom would be a simple piece of perfect toast with an elegant scoop of Almas Iranian Beluga caviar served in a shining silver spoon with a perfect sliver of lemon to the side.
Karen Resta is a writer, a food culturalist and a sometimes-fashionista who mostly loves ice cream and Brooklyn.