Friday, April 27, 2012

Kitchen Appliances for Writers

I'm an experimental cook. Meaning I wait until the last minute because I'm caught up in some writing project and completely forget it's time to eat, and then I go in search of something to throw together. So most meals are experiments in creativity. Isn't that what writers do?

I have an old stove. 
For an old one, it's still reliable and mostly accurate. I use it to cook eggs for breakfast, store pots and pans (lots of storage in this thing), and occasionally cook pasta. Sometimes I'll stir fry. Every now and again, I'll roast potatoes or veggies in the oven. I cook most of my meat and many of my veggies on the gas grill outside. No cleanup. Just turn up the gas and turn on a timer. I have forgotten the time before and end up with no gas.

Recently I have added a couple of appliances that make my life so much easier. Bear with me. I know it's Poetry Friday and there is a poem coming.

This is my Ninja!

It is the most amazing blender ever invented. The motor sits on top. Absolutely no mess, no dials, just a punch button to make it go. The blades are super sharp, so be careful. Perfect for a smoothy snack. Or a smoothy lunch if that meal snuck up on you. The smaller bowl is additional, with it's own blades for chopping things.

My most recent addition is the cool rice cooker. I'd heard of rice cookers before. My daughter has one, but as I don't cook much rice, I never really thought much about one. A few weeks ago, my nephew, the one who keeps me organized and dressed fashionably, took me shopping. "You need a rice cooker," he said. So, we bought a rice cooker. I love it. I've looked at a couple of other since I bought this one, and I like mine the best of any I've seen. Rice cooks in the bottom while anything from fish to green beans or both, steams in the basket above it. Fantabulous! Now I can put dinner on before I sit down and start that project. I doesn't overcook or burn if I forget it. And I always have leftover rice for rice pudding. It's good for  breakfast. I throw the rice pudding together and let it cook while eating dinner. Cool it, stick it in the fridge, and pull it out for breakfast. East cold or reheat in the microwave. (That other appliance I'd find it hard to live without.)

So there you have it, my commercial on this Poetry Friday.

Now poetry. Rice Pudding poetry, of course.

Rice Pudding
by A.A. Milne

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s crying with all her might and main,
And she won’t eat her dinner—rice pudding again—
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
I’ve promised her dolls and a daisy-chain,
And a book about animals—all in vain—
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s perfectly well, and she hasn’t a pain;
But, look at her, now she’s beginning again!
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
I’ve promised her sweets and a ride in the train,
And I’ve begged her to stop for a bit and explain—
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s perfectly well, and she hasn’t a pain,
And it’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again!—
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

Tabatha Yeats hosts more Poetry Friday at The Opposite of Indifference

Never tried rice pudding? Here's a quick, easy recipe. I cut the sugar by half because I don't like it so sweet. I have used honey before, too. And my rice is usually not short grain. The long grain works just fine.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


That's pretty much how I'm feeling today.

I had an email from Allan Wolf who said my post on The Watch that Ends the Night made him feel like a rock star. That's so cool. In my book, he is a rock star. I am honored by his pleasure.

Just being asked to be a guest at Jama's Poetry Potluck is amazing. When I look at the line up of poets, I can't help wondering how I managed to get on that list. Honored. That's how I feel.

Last night I received an award from Columbus State University, College of Letters and Science, as the 2012 Outstanding Alumni in the area of Humanities. I'm honored.
David Lenoue, Dean of the College of Letters and Science, Barbara Hunt, Chairman of the English Department, and me
When I think back on my return to school in 2000, I have so many good memories.

The paper I wrote on the Embryonic Development of a Lizard's Eye. It was for a technical writing class. My professor, Dr. Joe McCallus (who nominated me for the award), came around with slips of paper with general topics. My unlucky choice was biology. Then he assigned an audience. Mine was a ninth grade biology student. Okay. So I picked the lizard's eye, but the requirement was to take something complicated and write so that my audience would get it. Fun? As a matter of fact, it was.

The day Robert Pinsky, visiting poet, refused to answer my question because he assumed I couldn't possibly be a student (at my age! or maybe I just looked teacherly that day). I very graciously shut my mouth, but I still don't read much Pinsky.

Working with Dr. Nick Norwood, an excellent poet, and my first published poem in CSU's literary magazine, The Arden. Now that was something for my eyes to behold.

The wonderful, supportive faculty, some of whom are still good friends today.

There are many more, but that's enough for now.

I'm still feeling honored.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Alphabet Soup

You can find me today over at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup . I am one of Jama's featured poets  in this month's Poetry Potluck.  When she asked me to participate, I told her that I felt like I had arrived! I'm honored to be in such esteemed company. I love reading Jama's delicious posts. You will, too.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Poetry Friday: Allan Wolf

Last month, I participated in the March Madness Poetry Tournament organized and put on by Ed DeCaria. Sixty-four poets forged poems from words assigned and seeded by Ed's vicious imagination. I lost in round one to some guy named Allan Wolf. Check out the match up here. My word was "panic," Allan's was "kinkier." Like I said--vicious imagination. Okay, so thirty-one other people lost in round one, too. It's to be expected, right? Yeah, but who is this guy, anyway? And I know thumbnail photos are often not the best representation, but frankly, this guy looked just a little scary!

So, I went to his website, found his Facebook page, made a list of books and charged off to the library to see what I could find. And there in the Young Adult section, sitting out in the "Grab Me First" section by the computer stations, I found this beautiful book.

Aside from all the hoopla going on with the hundredth anniversary of Titanic's demise, I was intrigued by the fact that this book, unlike most poetry books (unless your name is Norton and you collect things), was nearly 500 pages long. I brought it home and plunged in. The deeper I got, the more I was enthralled.

We all know the story of Titanic. Everybody's seen the movie. How on earth does someone retell this story and make it riveting? Allan found the answer.

The Watch that Ends the Night is told in the voices of twenty-four people aboard the ship. Before the First Watch ended, I was invested in the lives of Jamila, the frightened refugee; Harold Bride, the spark--telegrapher par excellence; Thomas Andrews, the confident shipbuilder; John Jacob Astor, the millionaire who can find privacy nowhere; Frederick Fleet, the lookout who watches the world; and Frankie, the little boy who knows he can't replace his dead brother. There are others, but these are some of my favorites. And suddenly they are real people that I care about, and I don't know which ones will live and which ones will die. I even care about that stupid rat the baker chases.

The voice of the iceberg constantly reminds me that most of them won't survive.

The voice of the undertaker intrudes to count bodies, record their effects, and sew them into bags.

Who? Which ones? Always the question, and the end of each poem makes me wish helplessly for their safety.

The book received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus Review, and Horn Book Magazine.

I wondered what more I could say about it. It's simply marvelous.

I love audio books and can't wait to get my hands on the audio version of this one. It has been nominated for an Audie Award.

And as for Allan Wolf, don't let the thumbnail fool you. He's not scary at all. Well, he might be if he was telling a ghost story. When I emailed him in the middle of an out of town trip to ask if he wanted to add a comment, he graciously lent me his very impressive voice.

From Allan:
The earliest draft of this book contained a family of 13 ship rats that became more and more human as the ship got farther out to sea.  These rats gave themselves names. They sang opera. They fell in love. They went on quests.  The book's editor, Elizabeth Bicknell at Candlewick Press, wisely convinced me that the rats were a distraction.  It was maybe a year of work and 150 pages of prose tossed overboard.  The single rat that scuttles about the pages of the book is all that is left of this merry band of rodents.  
Note on the Iceberg:  The Iceberg speaks in iambic pentameter for a very specific reason.  Visually this form looks monolithic on the page, as a chunk of ice might.  As the novel progresses, the Iceberg's poems become shorter and shorter.  And toward the very end, the line length shortens.  The iambic pentameter becomes iambic tetrameter.  Then trimeter.  And so on.  The rhythm of the "iamb" is the rhythm of the heart: lub DUB, lub DUB,  lub DUB, lub DUB, lub DUB.  And it is the human heart that so intrigues this holier-than-thou, ancient, existentialist villain.  Also the name, iamb, is a play on the mantra that the Iceberg uses throughout the book.  I am the ice.  I am the ice.  When the iceberg finally melts away, it's final poem is:  "I am."  One final heart beat.  And then it's gone.
If you would like to know more, read this excellent interview at The Fourth Musketeer. And here is a WLOS news interview with Allan reading the voice of the undertaker.

And I couldn't resist adding Allan's actual voice to this post.

Diane Mayr has the Round Up at Random Noodling. There's always something for everyone on Poetry Friday.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Don't Be Flip

Don't Be Flip
by Todd Boss

when you drop
your mate at
the dock or

your children
at school. Don’t
be cool. Don’t

be coy. Or if
you do, don’t
assume it’s

okay to act
that way. For
today may

be your last
chance at
joy before it

flashes away

Read the rest here.

Anastasia Suen hosts Poetry Friday Roundup at Booktalking.

Are you keeping up with the progressive poem this month? Check out the line 13 addition here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Poetry Friday: Scott Cairns

Since today is Good Friday, I'd like to introduce you to a religious poet whose work I find both beautiful and challenging. Scott Cairns is Professor of English and the Director of Creative Writing at the University of Missouri. Scott is a good friend of a poetry professor I had at Columbus State University (GA), and I had the pleasure of hearing him speak and read a few years back. He's delightful.

A couple of quotes about the poet:
“Cairn’s warm, calm, personal tones win him respect in many quarters, but his core audience comes from his subject matter: the mysteries, consolations and consequences of Christian belief . . . . Cairns seeks compassionate ways to apply the lessons of theologians or of Christ to his own life; one does not need to be Christian, or even religious, to profit from what he finds.” –Publishers Weekly
“Scott Cairns is one of the best poets alive.” –Annie Dillard

The More Earnest Prayer of Christ

and being in an agony he prayed more earnestly… Luke 22:44

His last prayer in the garden began, as most
of his prayers began – in earnest, certainly,
but not without distinction, an habitual…what?

Distance? Well, yes, a sort of distance, or a mute
remove from the genuine distress he witnessed
in the endlessly grasping hands of multitudes

and often enough, in his own embarrassing
circle of intimates. Even now, he could see
these where they slept, sprawled upon their robes or wrapped

among the arching olive trees. Still, something new,
unlikely, uncanny was commencing as he spoke.
As the divine in him contracted to an ache,

A throbbing in the throat, his vision blurred, his voice
grew thick and unfamiliar, his prayer – just before
it fell to silence – became uniquely earnest.

And in the moment – perhaps because it was so
new – he saw something, had his first taste of what
he would become, first pure taste of the body, and the blood.

-- Scott Cairns

Read here an article about Scott and his poetic journey.

This excerpt is from an interview in the Mars Hill Review:

MHR: As a teacher of creative writing, do you have any specific goals for your students?
SC: Yes. I want them to see themselves, and what they create, as part of an ongoing, vital tradition. I want them to turn away from the modernist, personal mode and its taste for ennui. I want them to find in poetry a means of consoling their losses, a way of witnessing grace, and an access to living, even now, in what we still might call the Kingdom of God. I want us all to be free of petty passions, and freed into serving enormous passions. I know that's pretty big talk, but I think poetry has the power to effect just such pleasures. I think the writer of John's gospel was onto something when he chose Logos as a metaphor for the Christ. I like also the Hebrew notion of word, davhar, a word which is also a thing, a power, an agent instigating other, subsequent words.
If you happen to live near Los Angeles, Scott will be presenting at Biola University on April 26.

There is lots more Poetry Friday rolling around in the kidslitosphere today and Robyn is hosting the roundup over at Read, Write, Howl.

And don't forget to follow the progressive poem celebrating National Poetry Month. Mary Lee has today's new line at A Year of Reading.

And... One more thing. Stop by Think Kid, Think! and celebrate the winner of  the March Madness Poetry Tournament. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Progressive Poem Continues Here

Among the many offerings in the Kidslitosphere for National Poetry Month, the utterly delightful Irene Latham is hosting a progressive poem at her blog, Live Your Poem... Stop by to see the list of other poetic activities you can participate to celebrate the wonder of words.

I remember a few progressive dinners in my time. Most of them were youth group events where you were never quite sure what you'd find at the next stop. 

And that's exactly what this poetic journey offers. So climb aboard and enjoy! 

If you are reading this
you must be hungry

Jeannine, you're next!

2012 KidLit Progressive Poem:  watch a poem grow day-by-day as it 
travels across the Kidlitosphere! April 1-27


1  Irene at Live Your Poem 
2  Doraine at Dori Reads
3  Jeannine at View from a Window Seat
4  Robyn at Read, Write, Howl
6  Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
8  Jone at Deo Writer
9  Gina at Swagger Writer's
10  Julie at The Drift Record
11  Kate at Book Aunt
12  Anastasia Suen at Booktalking
14  Diane at Random Noodling
16  Natalie at Wading Through Words 
17  Tara at A Teaching Life
18  Amy  at The Poem Farm
19  Lori at Habitual Rhymer
21  Myra at Gathering Books
22  Pat at Writer on a Horse
23  Miranda at Miranda Paul Books 
24  Linda at TeacherDance
25  Greg at Gotta Book
26  Renee at No Water River
27  Linda at Write Time
28  Caroline at Caroline by Line
29  Sheri at Sheri Doyle
30  Irene at Live Your Poem