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Grocery rhymes: how poetry has flourished in supermarket aisles

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After a couple of students used a sonnet to take a swipe at Tesco, we look back at the often strained relationship between poets and superstores

In 1956, Allen Ginsberg’s poem A Supermarket in California placed famous poets in supermarket aisles: “Wives in the/avocados, babies in the tomatoes!–and you, Garcia Lorca, what/were you doing down by the watermelons?” Back then, the unlikely union of supermarkets and poetry was both literally and figuratively like chalk (used to write poetry on boards) and cheese (available from all good supermarkets). This week, the two worlds have collided again.

St Andrews University students Isabelle Bousquette and Tomi Baikie were so disgruntled that their local Tesco stopped selling a particular brand of popcorn that they “resorted to the only thing we really know, Shakespearean sonnet”. The verbally gifted duo sent in a poem of complaint, which included lines such as “Have I Butterkist my true love goodbye?/Let this be a dream. Restock when I wake.” Tesco’s complaints team whirred into action, penning an apology poem that made the word “continued” rhyme with “discontinued”, and offering a £10 gift card. The response intoned “A decision was taken though not in great haste,/To de-list this item ’cos it ended in waste.”

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