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Nov 22, 201112:00 AMAfter Hours

with Jody Glynn Patrick

A Book of Poem: Barry Levenson adds new spice to his mustard business

A Book of Poem: Barry Levenson adds new spice to his mustard business

IB Publisher Jody Glynn Patrick blends work and life in this very clear departure from both her column for In Business magazine, and the other bloggers. Awarded national recognition for her previous work as a newspaper columnist, she brings us all back "Closer to Home" with her insights and remembrances. A nice place to be "After Hours." Check back often! Read Full Bio

When you visit the Mustard Museum in Middleton, you’ll find a new savory offering on the shelves alongside mustards of every variety: A Book of Poem by museum curator (and owner) Barry Levenson. And, if you are feeling witty, you can pen your name onto the cover as his co-writer (he left a place there for you to do so on its appropriately mustard-yellow cover).

What Barry has been doing After Hours is writing his own prose. And while the book promises a poem, which is what it eventually delivers in the body of the book, those wanting more (and you will want more) will find a few more poems in the appendix – which he claims is NOT part of the book according to IRS regulations.

Here’s one example of his poetry, and I feel okay reprinting it for you, since he recited it recently on IB’s radio show during an interview. The title is “The Arsonist”:

An arsonist knocked on my door
And asked me, point blank,
“Would you like me to set fire to your house?”
Excuse me?
“At a very competitive price, Sir, I could arrange for your house to be
engulfed in a bowl of hot mustard flames.
I said no.

She then asked, “Are you sure?”
I said I was sure.
“Okay then, I’ll go.”
She turned around and walked down the path
that led from my door to the street.

That was odd, I thought.
Because she did not even leave me her card
or ask if I might know of someone
who could make good use of her services.
Strange I thought, because she had seemed
so professional.
So confident.
So all-together in control of her business
when she rapped on my wooden door, the portal that could have been
the kindling to ignite the neighborhood’s most exciting inferno ever.

When she reached the end of the path,
she must have sensed that I was
watching her.
Mesmerized by her jammy smile,
her pouty lips dripping with the remains
of a cherry slushie.
It was hot and I wish I had one.

“Have a nice day, Sir!”

A nice day, indeed.

From the Supreme Court to David Letterman to ... poetry?

For those of you who have never met the Mustard Museum curator, you have missed a chance to shake hands with an iconic personality. Barry supposedly was trying a case (as an attorney) before the Supreme Court when he was inspired to leave a lucrative law practice (“lucrative” as defined by Barry his own way) to collect and put on display as many brands of mustard as he could get his hands on legally.

Since then, he has appeared on television shows and catapulted a private obsession into a very public retail business. Most recently, after moving the business from its Mount Horeb roots to new digs in Middleton in 2009, he’s pursuing true museum nonprofit status for that part of the business.

His additional claim to mustard fame is that, at the invitation of David Letterman to produce a really hot mustard for a televised taste test, he left the talk show host on his knees gasping for water before a national audience.

Now he’s written A Book of Poem to put on the shelf alongside his previous books (Habeas Codfish, The Seventh Game, and Mustard on a Pickle). At first glance, the poetry book reminded me of the children’s book The Monster at the End of This Book, with its nonsensical insistence that the left-hand pages remain blank, while promising that eventually the book’s poem would be revealed. But then I began reading the right-hand pages, in which such philosophical questions are raised as “Would you rather play on a team of poets or a team of U.S. presidents?”

Poets. Any day.

However, the real sauce is, indeed, in the appendix, and personally, I think that’s where the beef [hot dog] really is, too.

When you separate the commentary from the poetry, I believe the man is a poet in the truest sense of the word. His work is haunting, from a poem about a friend who commits suicide to a tale of sitting and fishing – and then eating his only friend, who turns out to be a literature-starved fish. But I don’t want to give away any more storylines because his artistry is real and I bow to the master – he’s really good at this new endeavor.

Check it out and check him out – it’ll be an adventure. Tell him his #2 fan sent you (I’m sure his wife, “Patti Pickles, who buys her shtickles with bags of nickels,” to whom he dedicated the book, remains his #1 fan).

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About This Blog

IB Publisher Emeritus Jody Glynn Patrick blends work and life in this very clear departure from her other writing for In Business magazine. Awarded national recognition for both her previous work as a newspaper columnist and her journalistic leadership at IB, she brings us all back "Closer to Home" with her insights and remembrances. A nice place to be "After Hours." Check back often!

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