Publishers Weekly interview: Art, Poetry, and Food Combine in Eric-Shabazz Larkin's 'A Moose Boosh'
Eric-Shabazz Larkin doesn't consider himself a "food expert," but in the children's poetry collection A Moose Boosh: A Few Choice Words About Food (Readers to Eaters, Oct.), he demonstrates himself to be not just a wordsmith but a bit of a vandal, too. "I wanted to create a look that was unique to the children’s book and food worlds," he told PW. "So I got rebellious and started vandalizing photos—a technique I use in an ongoing street project of mine. I think the mischievousness of vandalizing photographs is something that all ages are drawn to, and secretly want to do themselves."
The book consists of more than 40 poems on topics that range from the existential musings of corn on the cob to the joys of slurping noodles and an ode to Marcus Samuelsson's restaurant Red Rooster Harlem. "All my poems in A Moose Boosh came from little odd experiences that I turned into stories that were much larger in my head," Larkin said. " 'Doctor Food' is a poem about two people I made into one—the first was a therapist who helped a deep depression I was in just by changing my diet, and the second is the man in the picture in front of his actual shop in the Lower East Side called Stanley’s, where he sells all kinds of home remedies that don’t include drugs. 'Food Desert in Harlem' comes from a hungry Saturday afternoon in Harlem, where I could not find one vegetable anywhere without getting on a train and going to another neighborhood." (Click here to see a short video Larkin filmed at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, where an apple vendor inspired one of his poems.)
A Moose Boosh is Larkin's first book as both author and illustrator; it was after illustrating Jacqueline Briggs Martin's 2013 picture book Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table that Larkin began to read books like Michael Pollan's Food Rules and watch films like Food, Inc., and think about exploring food culture and gastronomy through poems and art. "When I was a kid I loved poetry, and dinnertime was the most precious time of every day," said Larkin. "As an adult, I love writing poetry, and I sometimes bring a poem to share at dinner parties. A Moose Boosh is a mashup of those favorites, a book of poems meant to be read at dinnertime and family time."