Cheese Inspired Literature for a Wintry Tuesday


Following on from Neruda’s poem about tomatoes and my encounter with a pizza dripping with cheese on a cold winter’s day I decided to revisit one of the first editorials I did for Tuesday Poem.  I had cheese on the brain at that time too and yes it was winter!  I had been looking for poems on cheese when I discovered G.K. Chesterton’s essay on cheese. See extract below.

“My forthcoming work in five volumes, `The Neglect of Cheese in European Literature,’ is a work of such unprecedented and laborious detail that it is doubtful whether I shall live to finish it. Some overflowings from such a fountain of information may therefore be permitted to sprinkle these pages. I cannot yet wholly explain the neglect to which I refer. Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. Virgil, if I remember right, refers to it several times, but with too much Roman restraint. He does not let himself go on cheese.

Photo by Nastya Sensei Sens on

The only other poet that I can think of just now who seems to have had some sensibility on the point was the nameless author of the nursery rhyme which says: `If all the trees were bread and cheese’ – which is indeed a rich and gigantic vision of the higher gluttony. If all the trees were bread and cheese there would be considerable deforestation in any part of England where I was living. Wild and wide woodlands would reel and fade before me as rapidly as they ran after Orpheus.” To read more go here

It was my research into this essay which led me to Judy Brown, a bright light on the UK poetry scene, and permission to use The Cheese Room (from the Guardian’s Poem of the Week series) as the basis for my first Tuesday Poem editorial. I loved working with this wonderfully sensual poem. Judy described it as still becoming and each time I read it, it has become a little more.

Please go here to read this poem and my editorial

Meanwhile here is one of my early poems, inspired by cheese…of course.

Camembert Cheese

we talk of this

and that

old friends

new ones

what happened to the cat

very civil really

very very pat


and I almost keep control

over words in normal chat

until you

stretch a hand out

for a slice of camembert

and we look

and see each other

suddenly aware

(c) Helen McKinlay


Watch this space

Over a period of several months poets were invited to write new poems in response to the 1217 Charter of the Forest, to trees or woodland of personal significance to them, or how trees have shaped our society, landscape and lives. Judy was part of this and I will be posting her poem here in the (NZ) Spring. Meanwhile you can return to or visit Tuesday Poem Blog for more poetic delights.