Instructor’s fast food free verse gets radio airtime

January 15, 2010 by  

Billeh Nickerson’s three-month stint in fast food some 20 years ago now has him busy until August on a nationwide book tour.

This week, the Creative Writing instructor discussed his new book, McPoems, with Shelagh Rogers on the CBC radio show The Next Chapter. The book is a collection of poetry written about his time in the fast food service industry.

“All the poems are second-person and they situate the reader behind the counter,” said Nickerson, who worked at a well-known fast food restaurant in Langley while he was a Kwantlen student.

“There’s poems about French fries and ice cream cones and people freaking out about finding pickles on their burgers when they didn’t want pickles.”

Though complaining customers are a part of the job, Nickerson chose to focus more in the lighter side of fattening food chains, such as colourful regulars and co-workers having fun.

“I didn’t want pick a necessarily rhetorical stance because that’s happened with Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me,” said Nickerson. “I just wanted to have a focus on images and stories and let the reader make their own decision.”

Here’s a sample from McPoems, titled “Twist Cone.”

Your co-worker sings “Ebony and Ivory” every time she makes a twist cone
“It’s like chocolate and vanilla,” she tells you repeatedly
So often, you begin to hate pianos
almost as much as twist cones,
the people who order them,
and co-workers who sing

Nickerson had fun with the design of the book as well. The front cover is made to look like a Big Mac and the author’s photograph is his employee-of-the-month photo from July 1989, which his parents kept and gave to him a few years ago.

The interview aired on Monday and will be repeated on Saturday, Jan. 16 at 4 p.m. on CBC Radio One, 690 AM.


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