Monday, March 1, 2010

A is for Apple

Thanks, everyone, for your replies to the giveaway!  If you haven't entered it yet, please do.  I'll be drawing the winner tomorrow at noon EST.  

For the month of March, I've decided to create my own photographic alphabet here on Magpie's Fancy.  Now that I have this new camera, I thought what better way to experiment with it than by playing with another of my obsessions: letters.

It may be conventional to begin my alphabet with an apple, but I adore apples; I also adore this lovely vintage school slate that my mother gave me for my birthday this past fall.  Someone bound two slates together to make a little book.  It seems only fitting to place an apple with a slate.  Actually, instead of conventional, I'd like to think of it as classic.

Besides, I thought I'd share this apple poem that I wrote over a decade ago.  Within it are the names of several real varieties of apples and a couple that I invented for the poem.  (Note to self: I want to be a namer of things when I grew up, like a nail-polish namer or a paint-chip namer, or, yes, an apple namer.)  They're gorgeous, these names, like little treasures for the tongue!  This also happens to be an alphabet poem, and it's inspired, in large part, by my mum and by the time in our lives right after my father died.  It's about beginning and ending . . . and beginning again.  Just like memorizing the alphabet when we're young.  At the end of the song, we ask, "Next time won't you sing with me?" because we learn by trying again, and we look to those who know all the letters to help us when we lose our way.

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She learns apple before she is born:
her mother sits beneath a tree at Green Point Farm,
slices crisp moons of McIntosh,
teases them from the blade with her teeth,
filling her Rome Beauty belly.
A is for apple, she sings—
Sack and Sugars, Slack My Girdles, 
Golden Knobs.
The girl kicks in reply, 
begins her hungry life.

Over time they make pies, cider,
sauce.  Delicious, she learns, 
aren’t delicious at all, and crabs
are best for jelly.
When her mother reads her 
Snow White she knows why 
the girl craves the Queen’s apple,
heart-red, white as her own skin—
biting in, she becomes a greater tale to tell.

A is for ask, appetite, apologize—
Eve and Aphrodite stand sorry before her
in the Children’s Book of Ancient Stories,
apples in their upturned hands.  
With a pencil she draws them: Eve’s Incomparable,
Aphrodite’s Perfection—fruits she will eat
until the basket is empty.

Brown Snouts are bitter sweet
for blending with Hangdowns and Golden Drops.
She can pare one in seconds,
say the alphabet while she twists the stem:
Who will she marry?  K or M?
She makes a crust to catch him,
packs it full of Seek No Furthers,
bakes it till the sugar runs, sets it on the windowsill,
waits for her prince to come.

A is for apple, answers.  Her mother, alone,
shines Jonagolds with her coat sleeve, 
teaches her to carve swans and crowns, stud them
with cloves, make tarts from Grannys,
butter from Ida Reds, dry the Packhorses 
and Admirables for apple dolls
with black, beaded eyes 
and the faces of wise old women.


  1. Oh lovely poem!
    Apple is one of my favourite words,too.
    That's why we named Edward's best pal, Apple!!

  2. I think this is such a beautiful image. I love apples! One of my favorite, most reliable fruits. My kids love it, it tastes good, smells good. And that slate! My, oh my! Lucky you!
    The poem is precious, of course. I will copy this out in my journal so that someday my kids will read it and find it just as beautiful as I do. Have a lovely week, dear Gigi.

  3. lovely imagery.

    A is for apple, answers. Her mother, alone.
    Beautiful line. Nice work!

  4. Gigi,
    I'm speechless because after reading this poem paired with the incredible image, I find myself on a 'word' of my favorite states! You always leave me in awe.

  5. chills. flashes of childhood, of playing among the windfalls in the orchard, of wasps in the rotten ones, of making apple sauce.

    wow, gig. wow. this is the first time i've really read your poetry- been meaning to get my hands on that chap book- and i'm FLOORED.

    floored. thank you for writing, for sharing. i admire you so.

  6. Oh I love the expression your poem weaves, so wonderful Gigi. You really are so talented.

    I was going to say when I first saw the picture, wonderful choice. But you have taken it yourself...another talent, it's gorgeous.

    I look forward to your ongoing alphabet posts my darling.

  7. What a wonderful picture and project idea! And I love the poem. Yeah, who gets to come up with all of those great names of things?! :)
    I wonder what 'B' will be....

  8. What a great photo - it looks as though it were taken on film rather than digitally. And naming would be a fine way of life, very suitable for a Peter Greenaway character. Roll on B (perhaps with another poem?)

  9. that poem is just beautiful - i loved it as i tried to pick out the real and fantasy names of the apples. beautiful imaginery. and that shot is perfection - never apologize for your art. it is wonderful.

  10. Oh my, what a fantastic post! Beautiful poem, Gigi. So beautiful. And what a great idea for introducing your new camera to society! (I love my rebel too!)

    Can we be Namers of Things together? I worked in Holland every summer for three years packing flower bulbs, mind-numbingly boring work made enjoyable by all those incredible flower names people have come up with! Many's the hour I spent whiling away dreams of what names I'd come up with. I still have the notebooks full. (And yes, nail polish, and lipstick, and eye shadow! What glorious possibilities!) Sigh...

    (Ps. Word verification is 'swancing'. A perfect word for something like swan's dancing maybe? Oh dear, I'm on a roll!)

  11. Dear Gigi,
    What a poignant poem,and fabulous photograph. I can just see that composition on the table of a school in the 1800's. You have such an artistic eye. I, too an looking forward to 'B'. XXXX

  12. gigi

    A-dorable poem and, mmm warm apple pie


  13. Wonderful idea, to do an alphabet!!

    Great poem. I've always loved the apple name "Winesap."

  14. Beautiful poem - crisp and delicious and full of the regal aspects of apples :)

    Some of the language I especially loved:
    teases them from the blade with her teeth


    biting in, she becomes a greater tale to tell

  15. Wonderful photo and beautiful poem, are one talented woman! Have a fabulous week! :)xxoo

  16. I was thrilled with just the image and the idea of the alphabet. When you followed with your poem I was filled with happiness--as my daddy used to say, I had "an elegant sufficiency" of goodness to start my day. Thank you so much! I can hardly wait for the rest of the letters!

  17. Well you wooed me of course.. Letters ! They possess me. The letter 'A' I have two in my name... Slates I could write on every day. Apples I adore but have had to much of lately but adore at the beginning of the season (granny smiths, fujis and braeburns MMMMM).
    And your poem. Gives me goosebumps. I shall come back and savour it again later...

  18. I am so glad I didn't miss this post. I love your poetry. I don't love all poetry, in fact much of it completely bores me to death (sorry, I know you love it) but, yours reaches me. I get it.

  19. No, Sue, I get it. There's poetry that bores me, too. I'm so glad you like mine, though! You are a sweetheart. xo

  20. Gigi, I don't know what to say your poetry has touched me so...the imagery and the apple rhythm is so wonderful...and don't you just love the wise old women faces that dried apple dolls have?

    ...and your photo looks like you have owned that camera for a long time...what a beautiful, old timey still life...I am encouraged to get out there and practice:)

  21. Gigi, I had to wait to read this poem until I could truly focus on it, and it's just beautiful.

  22. Have I told you yet how much I love this. I keep coming back to read your poem, but I drift away to think and dream and haven't yet told you of my admiration. This time, I opened the post and came straight to the comments. Your poetry. Oh my!

    Another thing I love is the passion for the alphabet? Another way we are connected. Have you seen my Alphabetica project? We are so linked, aren't we? Such kindred spirits. I love that!!

  23. Oh Gigi...this is the first poem I have read of yours and I am craving more! I LOVE your way with words. This was delightful.
    Please, pretty please, will you email me and tell me how I can get your book?

  24. I am back. I have to ask you again and again to please share more of your poetry. Oh, won't you please?


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