Poetry Salute to Port Salut

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”  So Chesterton once lamented.  Perhaps many of the poets have been sadly silent, but not all.  One, in fact, talked about cheese so often and so affectionately that he was dubbed ‘The Cheese Poet’. 

The ancient poets ne’er did dream

that Canada was land of cream,

they ne’er imagined it could flow

in the cold land of ice and snow,

where everything did solid freeze,

they ne’er hoped or looked for cheese.

—Oxford Cheese Ode

Although they were contemporaries, G.K. Chesterton seems to have not known about James McIntyre, Canada’s Cheese Poet.  Or, perhaps he purposefully excluded him.  Chesterton did have a bit of snobbery in him, a trait common in tweed-clad men (with due respect to father, of course). McIntyre’s poetry was known for being both cheesy and cheesy.  And sometimes, I must admit, his rhyming sequence didn’t fit. 

The quality is often vile

of cheese that is made in April

therefore we think for that reason

you should make later in the season.

—Dairy Odes

It is disappointing that the poet who was most verbose on the subject of cheese wrote odious odes.  But I will admit that if gives me amused pleasure to know that someone actually took it upon themselves to poetically praise cheese.  McIntyre dearly loved his cows and cream.  I can respect that.

5 thoughts on “Poetry Salute to Port Salut

  1. This is fantastic. James McIntyre. I never heard the name before, but I shall not forget it.

    (I must respectfully protest the claim that Chesterton suffered from snobbery, however. He was no more immune from it than anyone else–it does have an awful habit of creeping in just about anywhere–but he was particularly wide-awake, I think, to its evils. And while he might have been a snob about not being snobbish, I very much doubt he would’ve excluded anyone on the basis of so petty a matter as rhyming sequence. I mean, look at his clerihews.)

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    1. He’s not well-known, but his quirkiness seems to have kept him from being forgotten.

      (I based the comment off Chesterton’s apparent distaste for free verse—which has worth if it brings us such gems as William Carlos Williams’ ‘This Is Just To Say’.)

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  2. I too can respect anyone who dearly loves cows and cream. This is the first I’ve heard of James McIntyre, and I am inordinately pleased to know of his existence!
    “they ne’er hoped or looked for cheese” – those poor, deprived ancient poets

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