Shakespeare inspires poem for Pancake Day in Wolverhampton

The Poet in Residence at Wolverhampton`s radio station, WCR FM, has written a poem for the people of Wolverhampton for Pancake Day based upon Sonnet 18 written by William Shakespeare.

Ian Henery, who successfully hosted 3 days of spoken word in the Mander Centre in February to celebrate the Wolverhampton Literature Festival, has written a special poem to celebrate Pancake Day based upon his love of the works of the Bard.

“I`ve never written a poem about pancakes before” he admitted “or even Shrove Tuesday.  It`s not something that I would normally think about or be inspired to put words to within the context of creative writing.  What do I write about?  Do I say “I used some nouns instead of eggs, poured in some verbs instead of milk, added adjectives for flour and whisked the words together before tossing the poem in the air?”  It`s playful but nothing new.”

Instead the Poet in Residence of WCR FM, which broadcasts on 101.8 FM, Spotify, online and Listen Again turned to William Shakespeare for inspiration and the words of the Bard.  He found what he was looking for in Sonnet 18 which is famous largely because of its eloquent use of language and perfection of form.  Shakespeare published over 150 sonnets but Sonnet 18 is perhaps the most famous.

“Sonnet 18 was originally published in 1609″ said Ian Henery but I decided to re-write it for 2023 and make it about Shrove Tuesday and pancakes.  I think it`s important to remind ourselves from time to time about what dates are really about in the calendar otherwise we risk sleepwalking through life without any real understanding about history or what dates signify in the year. I wonder how many people know what Shrove Tuesday is about or why we celebrate Pancake Day?  We celebrate it without any real knowledge or understanding.”

According to Ian Shrove Tuesday or Pancake day is the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.  Lent – the 40 days leading up to Easter – was traditionally a time of fasting before Easter.  During Anglo Saxon times Christians would go to confession on Shrove Tuesday and were “shriven” or absolved from their sins.  During Lent Christians give up luxuries to remember when Jesus went into the desert for 40 days to fast and pray.

Shrove Tuesday was the last opportunity to use up eggs and fats before embarking on a fast during Lent in the run up to Easter.  Pancakes were the perfect way of using up these ingredients.  Pancakes have a long history and feature in cookery books as far back as 1439 and the tradition of flipping them in the cooking pan is just as old.  The ingredients of pancakes were seen to symbolise the mystery of faith: eggs symbolised creation, flour the staff of life, salt was wholesomeness and milk was purity.

“Today people continue to whisk up these yummy treats on Shrove Tuesday and add all sorts of tasty toppings such as fruit, maple syrup and chocolate” explained Ian Henery “but check this out too!  Pancakes aren`t only for eating during this festival because people race with them too!  Pancake races are a super fun Shrove Tuesday tradition.  In this mad-cap activity people race each other while flipping a pancake in a pan.  Today pancake races are often organised to raise money for charity and help people in need.  So if you see me racing around the Mander Centre flipping a pancake in a pan you will know why.”

Sonnet 18 – Shall I Compare Thee To A Pancake?

(Apologies to William Shakespeare)

Shall I compare thee to a Shrove pancake?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate;

Lemons and maple syrup, taste buds shake

And you are special, an important date!

Sometimes too hot, the frying pan may cook,

Burning your gold complexion to a crisp

And you may lose your appetising look –

Afflicted crepe becomes a smoking whisp

But they eternal pancake lure can`t fade!

Nor culinary offerings, a treat –

Crowned with bananas and berries, well made;

Add chocolate and my rapture`s complete –

So long as we can breathe so eyes can see,

I`m hungry,  I want pancakes for my tea.

Ian “Shakespeare” Henery