Quarantine & Kitchen Poems - So, So Many Kitchen Poems

It has been two months, and I think I can finally admit it: Quarantine has been affecting my writing. I said it! I've admitted it! But wait, I do not specifically mean for the worst. Just that my writing has been affected.

I will begin by relating what I declared to my roommate a few days ago: I have too many goddamn kitchen poems. Kitchen floor, kitchen ceiling, kitchen countertop, blue tile backsplash in the kitchen--all these parts are accounted for in the poems I have written in the last few weeks.

I feel that I must contextualize this statement by clarifying that kitchens have always been present to some degree in my writing, however unintentional. I think they are incredibly symbolic, culturally loaded spaces. At least in the American mythos, we understand the kitchen as the heart of the home and, by extension, the heart of the family. That meaning, though certainly partially true in my nuclear upbringing, is like a scab that I can't help but pick at. The kitchen to me is so much more than simply a figure of the family unit or communion, even if it is also that. I want to see how it is insidious or unkind or even alien.

My point is, the kitchen holds a lot of potential for meaning for me. This has always found its way into my writing here or there, but usually there was a good month gap or so between an intrusion of the kitchen space into a poem.

Now, however, pretty much every poem includes the kitchen, and I know why.

Though not entirely, my writing has always been inspired to some degree by the places I go and the things I do, naturally, and I think this is true for most writers. My writing process under normal circumstances includes transportation; a good amount of my favorite poems have been written during or at least inspired by car, subway, train, and plane rides. (Several of these dictated to my phone as a long, weird Google search while on my way to work so that I could record my idea somehow.)

And while I still venture out of my apartment on occasion to take sanity walks or to take a trip to the grocery store about every two weeks, most of my days are spent reveling in the safety of the enclosure of my home. I can be found three places within my apartment: my bedroom, on the couch by the best window in the front room, and at the kitchen table.

And this last location is where I do a great amount of my writing, which has become very evident in the work I have produced recently.

I will begin my analysis by saying that I do not think of this as an explicitly bad thing. Perhaps it is not a bad thing at all. Maybe this is an opportunity to dive head first into my exploration of domesticity and domestic spaces and really commit to that concept which has interested me in the peripheries for so long. In a recent kitchen poem, I verbally raided my spice cabinet and considered culture both inherited and learned. It is a poem I quite like.

On the other hand, I do find myself mourning the variety of spaces within my poem as a result of this mandated narrowing of locale. I miss the possibility of writing a subway poem any time soon. This is a pretty weak argument, though, I will admit.

Once, after reading the drafts of a few short stories I was working on, my mother commented that if I put a collection together a good title might be The Most Important Meal of the Day, because I referenced breakfast so often. In this respect, I guess the kitchen has been relevant to my writing for longer than I had realized. And I kind of love it.

Especially considering how important cooking has become in my independent, ~adult~ life, maybe the kitchen is only just assuming its correct relevance and representation in my writing.

Significantly, for as much as I have missed leaving my apartment to be in other inspiring places, I have never felt cooped up in my kitchen. I have in my bedroom and by the window in the front room, but never in the kitchen. There, I make what I call "slow food," whether alone or with my roommate or with my partner; I mix spice blends in old jam jars; and I suppose I write there, too. I am working on feeling less like this is something I should change, because the result has honestly not been that bad so far.

Don't get me wrong, though, there will not be any collection of kitchen poems now or ever (at least I don't think).

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© 2020 by Abigail Swoboda.