Aug. 15, 2002

The Iceberg Theory

by Gerald Locklin

(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "The Iceberg Theory," by Gerald Locklin from The Iceberg Theory (The Lummox Press).

The Iceberg Theory

all the food critics hate iceberg lettuce.
you'd think romaine was descended from
orpheus's laurel wreath,
you'd think raw spinach had all the nutritional
benefits attributed to it by popeye,
not to mention aesthetic subtleties worthy of
veriaine and debussy.
they'll even salivate over chopped red cabbage
just to disparage poor old mr. iceberg lettuce.

I guess the problem is
it's just too common for them.
It doesn't matter that it tastes good,
has a satisfying crunchy texture,
holds its freshness
and has crevices for the dressing,
whereas the darker, leafier varieties
are often bitter, gritty, and flat.
It just isn't different enough and
it's too goddamn american.

of course a critic has to criticize;
a critic has to have something to say
perhaps that's why literary critics
purport to find interesting
so much contemporary poetry
that just bores the shit out of me.

at any rate, I really enjoy a salad
with plenty of chunky iceberg lettuce,
the more the merrier,
drenched in an Italian or roquefort dressing.
and the poems I enjoy are those I don't have
to pretend that I'm enjoying.

Today is celebrated as the Feast of the Assumption, a holy day of obligation for Catholics. The celebration of Mary being taken, body and soul, into heaven has been observed since the 7th century in Rome.

On this day in 1947, the Indian sub-continent won independence from Britain after being a colony for 200 years. Mohandas Gandhi, one of the most vehement champions of independence, declared his life a failure because India could not govern itself as one state but gave in to division-one nation primarily for Hindus (India), and another for Muslims (Pakistan).

It's the birthday of Julia Child, born in Pasadena, California (1912). She joined the O.S.S. during WWII, where she met Paul Child, who became her husband. He was an enthusiastic gourmet, and got her interested in foreign food. They were posted to Paris, where it was his interest in French food that prompted her to learn how to prepare it. She took classes at the Cordon Bleu cooking school, then studied privately with chef Max Bugnard. With two friends, chefs Simone Beck and Louise Bertholle, she set up a cooking school called L'École des Trois Gourmandes, and wrote the best-selling book Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961).

It's the birthday of "Lawrence of Arabia," T(homas) E(dward) Lawrence, born in Tremadoc, North Wales (1888). He wrote Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926), "the last great romantic war book," shortly after WWI, describing the Arab revolt and his glorious part in it.

It's the birthday of novelist Edna Ferber, born in Kalamazoo, Michigan (1887). She wrote sprawling sagas: So Big (1924-Pulitzer Prize winner); Show Boat (1926), which was made into a hugely popular musical; and Giant (1952). Edna Ferber said, "A woman can look both moral and exciting, if she also looks as if it were quite a struggle."

It's the birthday of novelist Sir Walter Scott, born in Edinburgh (1771), credited with inventing the historical novel. He began by writing narrative poems such as "The Lady of the Lake" (1810), then tried novels, starting with Waverley, which he published anonymously for fear of staining his "literary" reputation. When Waverley proved a sensation, he followed it, under his own name, with Rob Roy (1818), Ivanhoe (1819), and many more. "But no one shall find me rowing against the stream .… I care not who knows it-I write for the general amusement."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show