“The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night, and I love the rain…” -Langston Hughes
There are two things I truly enjoy: good poetry, and rain showers in the summer. You can certainly have too much of either, like anything else, especially when a tropical storm comes to visit. But today I am enjoying both.
I could spend hours sitting by a window, watching the raindrops fall through the sky, landing in puddles on the ground outside, if I had the time. It’s one of my favorite simple pleasures, right up there with a summertime tomato sandwich or a perfectly cold margarita at sunset at the beach.
Poetry is another of those simple pleasures. I was taught to love poetry by the best educators. It began with my parents, who read to me Dr. Seuss, and “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” among other great books.
Later I was introduced to more sophisticated poetry by my phenomenal English teachers at Port St. Joe High School, Mrs. Virginia Harrison and Mrs. Margaret Key Biggs. They introduced me to such greats as Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, Langston Hughes and William Carlos Williams, instilling in me an enthusiasm for their words that I worked hard to instill in my own English students years later.
I especially enjoyed the poetry of the great Langston Hughes. Mrs. Harrison had me write a research paper on Hughes one year in school, and I grew to love his work and his message as a result. His writing isn’t frilly or complicated; his words paint pictures and tell stories of his experiences with little things, like rain, or larger issues, like racism.
“Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby…” – Langston Hughes
To me, the poetry of Shakespeare is like a beautiful, priceless European chair. I enjoy going to see it in a museum occasionally, and I marvel at the intricacies and the talent it took to create such a thing. I’m not going to sit on it from day-to-day, though. I’m not going to live on it.
But when considering the poems of Hughes, I think of them more like a big farm table with sturdy, mismatched chairs pulled around it for neighbors from far and wide to pull up to, to be a part of the conversation and bread-breaking. It’s the poetry of daily life; it’s beautiful, it’s well-made, it can take your breath away when you least expect it.
Hughes, who was born in Missouri, found out quite literally what pulling a chair up to a Southern dinner table was like in the 1930s. He wrote of his experience of Southern hospitality while he was on a book tour here, according to historian and food professor, Fred Opie. Hughes said, “Southerners are great ones for hospitality. Warm and amiable and friendly as it was, I was nevertheless almost killed by entertainment, drowned in punch, gorged on food….I must have eaten at least a thousand chickens that winter.”
Sounds like us, doesn’t it? We can be counted on to love on you with offerings from our kitchen, to sit you down at the table to welcome you and to learn about you. We share casseroles when someone in the family dies, and we bring you cookies when you move in next door. Food is a wonderful, welcoming part of life, much like the poems that Mrs. Harrison and Mrs. Biggs introduced me to.
I want to remind you of an excellent cake recipe that will help you express that feeling of welcome and love to someone, whether it’s to your own family or to someone who is under the weather, or perhaps suffering from the loss of a loved one. Go hug their neck and give them this cake.
It’s gooey and sweet, and is the perfect thing to enjoy on a rainy day in the South, maybe even while you read a few of your own favorite poems.
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is “Mama Steph”. She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home. She is married and has three sons who can eat this cake in one sitting. You can find more of her recipes at WhatSouthernFolksEat.com.