'Oatmeal' by Galway Kinnell

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I eat oatmeal for breakfast.
I make it on the hot plate and put skimmed milk on it.
I eat it alone.I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone.
Its consistency is such that is better for your mental healthif somebody eats it with you.
That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to havebreakfast with.
Possibly it is even worse to eat oatmeal with an imaginarycompanion.Nevertheless, yesterday morning, I ate my oatmeal porridge,as he called it with John Keats.
Keats said I was absolutely right to invite him:due to its glutinous texture, gluey lumpishness, hint of slime,and unsual willingness to disintigrate, oatmeal shouldnot be eaten alone.
He said that in his opinion, however, it is perfectly OK to eatit with an imaginary companion, and that he himself hadenjoyed memorable porridges with Edmund Spenser and JohnMilton.
Even if eating oatmeal with an imaginary companion is not aswholesome as Keats claims, still, you can learn somethingfrom it.
Yesterday morning, for instance, Keats told me about writing the"Ode to a Nightingale."
He had a heck of a time finishing it those were his words "Oi 'ada 'eck of a toime," he said, more or less, speaking throughhis porridge.
He wrote it quickly, on scraps of paper, which he then stuck in hispocket,but when he got home he couldn't figure out the order of the stanzas,and he and a friend spread the papers on a table, and theymade some sense of them, but he isn't sure to this day ifthey got it right.An entire stanza may have slipped into the lining of his jacketthrough a hole in his pocket.
He still wonders about the occasional sense of drift between stanzas,and the way here and there a line will go into theconfiguration of a Moslem at prayer, then raise itself upand peer about, and then lay itself down slightly off the mark,causing the poem to move forward with a reckless, shining wobble.
He said someone told him that later in life Wordsworth heard aboutthe scraps of paper on the table, and tried shuffling somestanzas of his own, but only made matters worse.
I would not have known any of this but for my reluctance to eat oatmealalone.
When breakfast was over, John recited "To Autumn."
He recited it slowly, with much feeling, and he articulated the wordslovingly, and his odd accent sounded sweet.
He didn't offer the story of writing "To Autumn," I doubt if thereis much of one.
But he did say the sight of a just-harvested oat field go thim startedon it, and two of the lines, "For Summer has o'er-brimmed theirclammy cells" and "Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours,"came to him while eating oatmeal alone.I can see him drawing a spoon through the stuff, gazing into the glimmeringfurrows, muttering.
Maybe there is no sublime; only the shining of the amnion's tatters.
For supper tonight I am going to have a baked potato left over from lunch.
I am aware that a leftover baked potato is damp, slippery, and simultaneaouslygummy and crumbly, and therefore I'm going to invite Patrick Kavanaghto join me.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Poetry, Oatmeal" by Galway Kinnell: A Deliciously Poignant Exploration of Life

Have you ever had oatmeal for breakfast? It's not the most exciting of meals, is it? But what if I told you that a poem about oatmeal could be the most profound thing you've read in a long time? That's exactly what Galway Kinnell achieves in "Poetry, Oatmeal", a deceptively simple yet strikingly beautiful piece of writing that explores the simple pleasures of life and the power of poetry to elevate them into something much more.

The Poem: A Brief Overview

Let's start by taking a closer look at the poem itself. Here it is in full:

I don't want to be demure or respectable.

I was that way, asleep, for years.

That way, you forget too many important things.

How the little stones, even if you can't hear them,

are singing.

How the river can't wait to get to the ocean and

the sky, it's been there before.

What traveling is that!

It is a joy to imagine such distances.

I have been thinking about the patience

Of ordinary things, how clothes

Wait respectfully in closets

And soap dries quietly in the dish,

And towels drink the wet

From the skin of the back.

And the lovely repetition of stairs.

And what is more generous than a window?

At first glance, the poem seems to be a collection of random thoughts and observations. We have the speaker's rejection of convention and respectability, followed by a series of seemingly unrelated images and ideas. We have stones singing, a river eager to reach the ocean, and the sky already having been there before. We have the joy of imagining great distances, the patience of ordinary things, and the generosity of windows. What ties all of these things together? That's where the beauty of the poem lies, and that's what we're going to explore in this essay.

The Power of Poetry

First, we need to talk about the role that poetry plays in this poem. The title itself, "Poetry, Oatmeal", suggests that the two things are intimately connected. But how?

The answer lies in the way that poetry can transform ordinary things into something more meaningful. Think about it: oatmeal is just a bland, stodgy breakfast food. But in Kinnell's hands, it becomes a symbol of something much greater. "Poetry, Oatmeal" suggests that poetry has the power to take the mundane and elevate it into something sublime. It's not just about oatmeal – it's about the way that poetry can help us see things in a new light.

This is evident throughout the poem. Kinnell takes a series of everyday objects and experiences – stones, rivers, clothes, soap, towels, stairs, windows – and imbues them with a sense of wonder and significance. The stones are singing, the river is eager, the clothes are waiting respectfully, and the towels are drinking in the wetness of our bodies. These may seem like insignificant details, but Kinnell reminds us that they are all part of the beauty of life.

The Joy of Imagination

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is the way that Kinnell celebrates the joy of imagination. He revels in the idea of imagining great distances, of picturing ourselves in different places and times. This is evident in lines like "It is a joy to imagine such distances", which suggests that the act of imagining is itself something to be treasured.

But why is this so important? I think it's because imagination allows us to transcend our immediate surroundings and to see the world in a new way. When we imagine ourselves in different places, we are forced to confront the limitations of our current situation. We are reminded that there is more to life than what we can see and experience right now. In this way, imagination can be a source of hope and inspiration.

The Patience of Ordinary Things

Another key theme of the poem is the idea of the patience of ordinary things. Kinnell reminds us that even the most mundane objects – clothes, soap, towels – have a kind of quiet dignity to them. They wait patiently in closets and dishes, soaking up the wetness of our bodies and the suds of our soap. This may seem like a small thing, but I think it speaks to a larger truth about the beauty of everyday life.

Too often, we take the ordinary things in life for granted. We rush through our days without really taking the time to appreciate the small details. But Kinnell suggests that there is something inherently noble about the patience of ordinary things. They remind us that life is not just about the big moments – it's also about the small ones. It's about the way that we interact with the world around us, even in the most mundane ways.

The Generosity of Windows

Finally, we come to the idea of the generosity of windows. This is perhaps the most enigmatic image in the poem, but I think it's also one of the most powerful. Kinnell suggests that windows are generous because they allow us to see the world beyond our immediate surroundings. They give us a glimpse into a bigger, more expansive world. They remind us that there is more to life than what we can see from our own vantage point.

But why are windows generous? I think it's because they offer us a kind of freedom. When we look out a window, we are no longer confined to our own small space. We are able to see beyond ourselves and to imagine a world that is bigger and more expansive than we ever thought possible. In this way, windows offer us a kind of hope and possibility that is essential to the human experience.


In conclusion, "Poetry, Oatmeal" is a beautiful and profound poem that explores the simple pleasures of life and the power of poetry to elevate them into something much more. Through his use of vivid images and striking language, Galway Kinnell reminds us that even the most mundane objects and experiences can be a source of wonder and inspiration. He celebrates the joy of imagination, the patience of ordinary things, and the generosity of windows, all in the service of helping us see the world in a new way. In short, "Poetry, Oatmeal" is a deliciously poignant exploration of life that will leave you feeling inspired and uplifted. So go ahead and have a bowl of oatmeal – who knows what kind of poetry it might inspire in you?

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Oatmeal: A Deliciously Poetic Treat

Galway Kinnell's "Poetry Oatmeal" is a delectable poem that combines the wholesome goodness of oatmeal with the rich imagery of poetry. This poem is a perfect example of how poetry can be used to elevate the mundane and transform it into something extraordinary. In this analysis, we will explore the various themes and literary devices used in "Poetry Oatmeal" and how they contribute to the overall meaning and impact of the poem.

The poem begins with a simple description of oatmeal, "It is warm, it is sweet, it is laden with fresh milk." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is filled with sensory descriptions that evoke feelings of comfort and warmth. The use of the word "laden" suggests that the oatmeal is heavy with milk, which adds to its richness and creaminess. The word "fresh" also emphasizes the purity and naturalness of the ingredients, which is a recurring theme throughout the poem.

As the poem progresses, Kinnell introduces the idea of poetry as a transformative force. He writes, "It is like a visit to the home of our grandmother, where love and kindness are served in generous portions." Here, Kinnell compares the experience of eating oatmeal to visiting a grandmother's home, which is often associated with feelings of comfort, security, and love. The use of the word "generous" suggests that poetry, like a grandmother's love, is abundant and freely given. This comparison also highlights the idea that poetry has the power to nourish and sustain us, just like a warm bowl of oatmeal.

Kinnell continues to explore the transformative power of poetry in the next stanza, where he writes, "You become aware that poetry is a collection of the best words in the best order." This line is a reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous definition of poetry as "the best words in the best order." Kinnell's use of this quote suggests that he believes in the importance of language and its ability to convey meaning and emotion. By comparing poetry to oatmeal, Kinnell is also suggesting that just as oatmeal is made up of wholesome ingredients, poetry is made up of carefully chosen words that have the power to nourish our minds and souls.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as Kinnell brings together all of the themes and ideas he has introduced throughout the poem. He writes, "It is a bowl of oatmeal, with brown sugar, butter, and raisins, and a little cream poured over the top." This description of the oatmeal is rich and indulgent, with the addition of brown sugar, butter, and raisins adding to its sweetness and complexity. The use of the word "little" to describe the cream suggests that poetry, like cream, is a small but essential ingredient that enhances the overall experience.

The final line of the poem, "And it is poetry," brings together all of the themes and ideas that Kinnell has explored throughout the poem. By describing oatmeal as poetry, Kinnell is suggesting that poetry is not just a collection of words, but a sensory experience that can nourish and sustain us. The use of the word "and" suggests that poetry and oatmeal are equal in their importance and value, and that both have the power to transform our lives.

In terms of literary devices, Kinnell uses a variety of techniques to create a rich and evocative poem. The use of sensory descriptions, such as "warm," "sweet," and "laden," creates a vivid image of the oatmeal and its comforting qualities. Kinnell also uses metaphor and simile to compare oatmeal to poetry, which helps to create a deeper understanding of the transformative power of language. The use of repetition, such as the repetition of the word "it" in the opening line, creates a sense of rhythm and unity throughout the poem.

In conclusion, "Poetry Oatmeal" is a beautifully crafted poem that combines the simplicity of oatmeal with the richness of poetry. Through his use of sensory descriptions, metaphor, and repetition, Kinnell creates a poem that is both comforting and transformative. By comparing oatmeal to poetry, Kinnell suggests that language has the power to nourish and sustain us, just like a warm bowl of oatmeal. This poem is a testament to the power of poetry to elevate the mundane and transform it into something extraordinary.

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