The Gospel According to "Waitress": Spontaneous Poetry

The 2007 film, Waitress, later adapted as a hit Broadway musical, may focus on one particular waitress named Jenna, but a more appropriate title would be plural. Jenna’s fellow waitresses, Dawn and Becky, model a lovely friendship. They are supportive of each other, but they don’t sacrifice honesty in their support.

The day after Dawn goes on a blind date with a guy named Ogie (short for Oklahoma), she comes to the diner and tells her two friends it was “awful.” She refers to Ogie as a “stalking elf,” and even calls him such to his face when he shows up at the diner. Ogie, however proclaims himself “persistent.” He becomes determined to win Dawn’s heart, and his secret weapon is “spontaneous poetry”: poems that come to him on the spot. With no filter and no editor, he speaks the poems out loud as they come to him.

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Because Waitress is a bit of a fairy tale, Ogie and his poetry succeed. Jenna and Becky try to remind Dawn of her calling him a “stalking elf,” but Dawn’s mind has changed. Before long, Dawn and Ogie are getting married in the diner with Jenna, Becky, and a must-see cameo by the late Andy Griffith among the hesitant but supportive witnesses. The very bored, collar-wearing minister barely completes a sentence of the service before Ogie interrupts him with the declaration: “Spontaneous Poetry: Wedding Edition.” The minister stops speaking as Ogie composes a poem called, “Yes.” When he concludes the poem, Dawn is all smiles. But everyone else in the diner looks perplexed, confused, amused, or some mixture of the three. While the poems are meaningful to Dawn and Ogie, and funny for us as the audience, they can also be awkward.

As ridiculous as Ogie and his spontaneous poetry may seem, a world where we can write, post, tweet, and share our thoughts so easily make all of us spontaneous poets. Speaking or writing whatever comes to mind without filter or editor may make us feel as satisfied as Ogie, but what effects do those words have on others present? Sometimes we become so caught up in what our own words speak to ourselves that we don’t consider how they speak to others in the “room.”

When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but the prudent are restrained in speech.
— Proverbs 10:19

The book of Proverbs is appropriately categorized as “Wisdom Literature” because of the common sense it provides. Many a passage speaks to the use, source, and volume of our words. Frequently we are more interested in what we have to say than on what someone else might speak to us, feeding a culture of self centeredness. Ogie is a humorous but important reminder that sometimes we need a journal for our words before we speak them. Sometimes we need a moment to edit the truth we want to speak so that our audience will feel more open to what we say. Sometimes we need to be quicker to listen than we are to speak.

And sometimes, as Waitress beautifully portrays, we all need to be quiet and eat the delicious pies placed in front of us.

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian