Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Iceberg Theory - Gerald Locklin

all the food critics hate iceberg lettuce.
you'd think romaine was descended from
opheus's laurel wreath,
you'd think raw spinach had all the nutritional
benefits attributed to it by popeye,
not to mention aesthetic subtleties worthy of
verlaine and debussy.
they'll even salivate over chopped red cabbage
just to disparage poor old mr. iceberg lettuce.

I guess the problem is
it's just too common for them.
it doesn't matter that it tastes good,
has a satisfying crunchy texture,
holds  its freshness,
and has crevices for the dressing,
whereas the darker, leafier varieties
are often bitter, gritty, and flat.
it just isn't different enough, and
it's too goddamn american.

of course a critic has to criticize:
a critic has to have something to say.
perhaps that's why literary critics
purport to find interesting
so much contemporary poetry
that just bores the shit out of me.

at any rate, I really enjoy a salad
with plenty of chunky iceberg lettuce,
the more the merrier,
drenched in an italian or roquefort dressing.
and the poems I enjoy are those I don't have
to pretend that I'm enjoying.

I am all for liking what you like, regardless of the opinion of others, or of the "expert" opinions of critics.  That said, Mr. Locklin can stick it up his ass.

Mr. Locklin seems to be calling me pretentious, or perhaps worse,  a faker, for enjoying things that are not simple and insubstantial.  If I enjoy kale or spinach in my salad, or enjoy reading T.S. Eliot, I simply must be pretending.  While I would agree that sometimes critics, or more likely, consumers looking to seem refined, will disparage something simple for no reason other than something being simple (not necessarily a bad thing), that does not create a dichotomy.

I can enjoy iceberg lettuce while still preferring spinach greens, just as I can prefer Gerard Manley-Hopkins to a lesser poet whose works are insubstantial, such as Mr. Locklin.  Iceberg lettuce is a filler, something you crunch through happily with few cares or concerns.  His poem is a quick, unsatisfying read, with not even as much crunch or pleasing moisture as iceberg lettuce.  This poem makes me angry, honestly, as its an ode to anti-intellectualism and the pratfalls of subjectivity.  Locklin celebrates his own uncritical palate, and seems not to understand that some people have specific and discerning taste.  Sometimes bitter leafy greens accentuate the sweetness of a fruit in a salad, but Locklin will not discover that, because iceberg lettuce is "good enough."  His loss.


  1. Perhaps it's just a celebration of simplicity.

    1. A celebration of simplicity doesn't have to come at the expense of complexity. You can celebrate the simple without directly stating that those who enjoy the complex are in some way posers incapable of appreciating a wide range of things. I think that by throwing under the bus other foods (and by extension, arts) Mr. Locklin comes off less as playful and more as judgmental.

      I do like iceberg lettuce, though, and he's right about it having a satisfying cool crunch.

  2. Hm-m-m-m. Sounds like Mr. Locklin's poem hit a little too close to home with "Christopher" here. You know what they say - - when a person is overly sensitive and defensive about something, then it must be the most true.