“Wine is bottled poetry.” Robert Louis Stevenson
In Educating Peter: How Anybody Can Become An (Almost) Instant Wine Expert, by Lettie Teague, executive wine editor of Food & Wine), the basic premise of the book is that the general uninformed populace (as represented by Peter), through education, can cultivate and develop an appreciation for fine wines.
Cannot an appreciation for fine poetry also be developed and cultivated in the same way? Instead of wine tasting parties, poets could host poetry tasting parties where a variety of fine poems are “sampled” and their finer points elucidated. Literary critics would finally be of some use by contributing to the education of the general reading public in the finer, subtler points of poetry; helping them to acquire and cultivate a taste for vintage poets and their vintage poems, borrowing and using such wine tasting vocabulary like clarity, body, bouquet, and texture (the way the wine feels in the mouth); and teaching them to use terms like beefy, firm, flabby, fresh, fruity, rich, round or soft to describe a poem. In the end, producing a poetry connoisseur who would, together with other connoisseurs, begin to create again a demand and a market for fine poetry.
Imagine a time when a person would invite over a group of friends, pull out a few vintage volumes of poetry from the “cellar,” and spend a pleasant afternoon or evening sampling and discussing some vintage poems. What a civilized and pleasurable way to pass the time. And speaking of pleasure, isn’t that what poetry is primarily all about?
Silenus, companion to Bacchus, the god of wine.
“What is the greatest happiness of man?
Speak. Tell me, Silenus,” the King commanded.
Silent, with eyes averted, he did stand.
“Be warned, I’ll tell you as demanded.”
Slowly slipped down from off his furr’d shoulder,
A near-empty wineskin, uncorked it, and then
Imbibed a long draught seeking to grow bolder.
His great body to shake and jerk began.
Alarmed the King sat back upon his throne
With covered ears against the piercing laughter.
“Tis best a man never to have been born.
If so misfortuned, then die soon after.”
“I pray you err,” the King said despairing,
His wearied head bowed, beyond all caring.
©Poeticmeditations, 2011. All rights reserved.)
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