Poetry Wednesday – Katrina Vandenberg


This poem found its way unexpectedly into my life last week.  I’m always fascinated by how things come into our lives, just when we think we need them.  Last week, the National Book Award finalists were announced.  I’m disappointed When You Reach Me isn’t on there, but have little to say about the Stitches controversy.  In any case, it’s irrelevant outside the fact that it is this discussion that has lead me to Katrina Vandenberg’s poetry.  John Green, on his blog, posted about how irrelevant the categorization of books into one category over another is, and presented Katrina Vandenberg as an example.  Her poetry is recommended on Amazon if you go to any of John Green’s books.  So I googled Katrina Vandenberg and found this poem, and it nearly brought me to tears.  I can’t even explain to you why.

PESTO IN AUGUST by Katrina Vandenberg

How many times does this ritual repeat
itself, preparation that begins with sweetness

unlocked by the parting of leaves? How many
women have unpetaled garlic cloves, dripped oil

cold-pressed from olives down a bowl’s curve,
ground the edible seeds of pine with mortar

and pestle until the clay was sweet with resin?
Though the legend speaks of love, in Italy

when a woman let basil’s scent seep from
her clay-potted balcony, she was being modest

when she said the smell would tell a certain man
to be ready only for her flowers and her smile.

Tonight I steam pasta until my wallpaper curls
from the walls, slice heavy globes of tomatoes

that separate in sighs of juice and seed,
then toss them with hot spaghetti and the green

my garden has produced with sun, wind, earth,
moon, rain; I remember another legend,

that a sprig of basil given
in love seals love forever.

A clink of plates, of silverware, an overflow
of wine. Say, Love, I am ready. Come. Take. Eat.


I don’t even like pesto!  Every word in this poem belongs there, everything to me is absolutely perfect.  It is a love poem that looks at love in such a unique way that it’s blowing my mind a little bit.  It is a poem about women and cooking and what cooking means for women, but in a way that is celebratory instead of stereotypical.  Gah.  I’m eternally jealous of this poem and what it does.  Hello, Katrina Vandenberg, can we be best friends?


2 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday – Katrina Vandenberg

  1. YES YES YES! She’s brilliant. I’ve had Atlas on my nightstand since I bought it in February, and I dip into it at least once every few days. It seems that I never get tired of reading the poems again and again. And some of them NEVER fail to make me cry.

    I found her via John Green too – because of Paper Towns and because he’ll often read her poetry during her live shows. I am SO glad I did.

  2. Wow, thanks for introducing this poet to me! I had to google her also (this blog post of yours, about her, comes up near the top 😉 ) and read inside “Atlas” on amazon. I want the book! I loved the poem shown inside about the women making apple pies.

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