Death and taxes, that’s what they say. But for many
James McIntyre had an unstoppable urge to write poems on the surprising topic of….cheese. His much mocked ‘cheese odes’ not only have a truly awful theme but are delivered with appalling rhymes and strikingly bad visual imagery.
Living in Ontario he was surrounded by dairy produce and his early poetic efforts included: ‘Cheese Pioneer’, ‘Hints to Cheese’ and the hilariously over the top ‘Oxford Cheese Ode:’
The ancient poets ne’er did dream
That Canada was land of cream,
They ne’er imagined it could flow
In this cold land of ice and snow,
Where everything did solid freeze
They ne’er hoped or looked for cheese.
Soon McIntyre became gripped with a hideous fixation – the idea of a giant cheese. The event responsible for this turn of events was the local production of a giant cheese in 1866. It was sent from Ontario to exhibitions in Toronto, New York, and Britain. As a result, on August 23, McIntyre publicly debuted his truly horrible effort at celebrating this event: “Ode on the Mammoth Cheese.”
We have seen thee, Queen of Cheese, lying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze, thy fair form no flies dare seize.
All gaily dressed, soon you’ll go, to the provincial show,
To be admired by many a beau in the city of Toronto.
His work then took a turn for the truly bizarre, as he starts to write with almost religious fervor of stroking a giant cheese, even larger still, in his: “Prophecy of a Ten Ton Cheese:”
Who hath prophetic vision sees; in future time a ten ton cheese,
The greatest honor to our land; would be this orb of finest brand,
Three hundred curd they would need squeeze; for to make this mammoth cheese.
But will need a powerful press; this cheese queen to caress,
To seek fresh conquests queen of cheese; she must sail across the seas.
An annual poetry contest is held celebrating his singular achievements in Ingersoll, Ontario.
If your stomach is strong enough, you can read more of his ‘cheese odes’ in Oh! Queen of Cheese: Selections from James McIntyre, the Cheese Poet which collects his poems together with cheese recipes and anecdotes.