News: The Poetry of Waffles

The Poetry of Waffles

Posted September 5, 2019

The friendly yellow Waffle House sign has been a source of comfort and artistic inspiration for Karen Head through the years. Recently, Head was appointed as the official Waffle House Poet Laureate — she even has the nametag to prove it. This fall, she’s fulfilling her new role by driving across the state of Georgia and sharing her passion for poetry and arts with high school students in far-flung counties, telling them about her own circuitous path to a meaningful career, and convincing them that they should go to college.

Whenever Karen Head would get homesick or just plain stuck while working on her doctoral dissertation at the University of Nebraska, she’d grab her keys, jump in her car and hit the open road. While her hometown of Atlanta was worlds away, she knew a place that would put her at ease—Waffle House.

The only problem was that she still had to drive a couple hours to get to the nearest location in Missouri, just north of Kansas City. “There’s virtually nothing between Lincoln and St. Joe’s, so they never built a Waffle House that far out into Nebraska,” Head says. “Back home in Atlanta and throughout the South, we have Waffle Houses everywhere.”

After Head reached her destination, she’d usually order a cheese and eggs plate, maybe a waffle, but always the hash browns. “For me, it’s all about the hash browns,” she says. “Scattered, smothered, covered, capped and diced. They make me happy. They make me feel like I’m home.”

By the time she finished her meal, she’d feel much better. She also might have worked out whatever dissertation problem had been bothering her. Or perhaps she had used the time between bites to jot down a quick poem, inspired by the sights, smells, tastes and emotions that consumed her in these familiar environs. “Even though it was a hassle to get there, the time and effort spent was well worth it,” Head says. “Waffle House always fixed me.”

Click here to read the full feature story on School of Literature, Media, and Communication Associate Professor Karen Head's journey as the Waffle House poet laureate.

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