Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Share and share alike

Feel free to add your scary ghosts below (Blast from the past), and then head on over to Blue Positive and share your submission stories.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blast from the past

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a poem about a certain teacher who had squashed my poetry hopes and efforts 28 years ago. In fact, I wrote two poems. In one, I tried to be funny. In neither did I try to be nice.

Tonight, while going through old things, I found the evaluation sheet from that teacher. Why did I save it? In my 20s I frivolously saved everything.

In all fairness, it probably wasn't as disdainful as I remember it. I'm not sure. Tonight I just scanned it—at least, after the first part of the first sentence:

"None of your poems except probably number 3 is a total failure…"

Blast? Flattening.

If you are a younger or a newer poet—or any human being—and you encounter a comment like that, take a deep breath and wait a few days or a few years before you decide what you're going to do with it.

As I said, tonight I just scanned it—and it looks like the sweeping devastation ends toward the end. I'll wait a few more days or a few more years and then read through it. Maybe it isn't too late to learn something from that experience.

P.S. I was, after all, so lucky. A few quarters later, I wandered into Nelson Bentley's class and felt like I could write again. The memory stayed, but the poetry began again.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Yum, onion, and how

Last week, I posted a picture of an onion tart, just out of the oven. Sweet caramelized onions, a little Gruyere, and a buttery crust. Yum! Here it is again:

Now, here's the how-to.

1 red pepper
3 large onions, preferably sweet
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. honey
salt and pepper
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp. cold water
1/2 cup grated Gruyere

In the broiler or on a grill, char the red pepper, turning it so that the skin blackens on all sides. Remove the pepper from the heat and seal it in a paper bag.

Chop or thinly slice the onions. Melt 2Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat, and then add the onions. Strip the leaves from the thyme sprigs and add the leaves to the pan. Add the honey, season the onions with salt and pepper, and cook them slowly until they are soft and golden.

Mix the flour and salt. Cut the stick of butter into cubes, and then cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is in pea-sized chunks. Mix the egg and water together, and then add that to the flour mixture. Incorporate thoroughly, but with as little handling as possible. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for half an hour.

Meanwhile, peel the charred skin off of your red pepper. Seed the pepper, and slice it into strips.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 14" circle. Transfer the dough to your pan (I use a 12" pizza pan), and then fold the edges of the crust over and crimp them with your fingers.

Spread the onions evenly on the crust, sprinkle the cheese on top, and then arrange the red pepper slices. Bake for 45 minutes-1 hour.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Feed me

No, I'm not Audrey.

But I found
this contest (like I need another contest to enter), and the rules say that I need to post what I make to a food blog (like I need another blog to write).

Poetry, food—it's all good, right?

And once a month or so, this blog will don an apron and a recipe and play a food blog. The theme for January is France and tarts (!), so coming soon will be a little more information about the onion tart.

Sugar is the new willpower

Or dessert…

(Kelli, this one's for you.)

A colleague sent me the link to this
Cognitive Daily blog post about the relationship between blood glucose levels and the ability to stay on task.

Seriously. I'm not making this up. Read the post, eat a cookie, and get back to writing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day!

Here's the poem I wrote for that inaugural ode contest:

To This America, Our America

The stars are hidden in the indigo
depths of this long night. We live in winter
yet now the light arrives earlier
every morning. We have come this far.

We know the wind blows hard. We know
the swirl of flood, the mud and loss it leaves.
We see the ghosts of our dead in the dreams
of our children. We have come this far,

and we are turning to the sun, turning
to each other, to feed and shelter our people,
to bury our lost with honor. We rise
to change, with joy that we have come this far

and seek to lead the world in learning how
to live with one another. Yes, we can—
together we have come this far
and we are walking onward into hope.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yum, onion

So simple—onions, butter, honey, and thyme. Oh, and a little Gruyere, a little roasted pepper. Add a salad, and it's supper.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Oh, my wild blue

It was so glorious this morning to wake up to this.

Even the frost on the parsley was delicate, a gift.

Later, we left, took a ferry across the Sound.

Blue all over.
A welcome day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


"Post-op, Medical Humanities," by Sandra McPherson, today on the Verse Daily site.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bathing in language

Tonight, a trip to Hugo House for a reading by Bruce Beasley and Deborah Poe. Luxurious washes of words, and a chance to see friends and meet some friends for the first time.

Like this one

I still don't fully understand, or embrace, the concept of prose poems—I mean, you're giving up the loveliness of end words—but I do so enjoy today's poem on Poetry Daily.

Friday, January 9, 2009

My Friday adventure: Annadama bread

The story goes, I'm told, that a colonial wife was baking bread and decided to throw some of the leftover cornmeal mush into the batter, and her husband said, "Anna, damn her."

I don't know why. It sounds good to me.

Today, I was low on whole wheat flour, so I through in some cornmeal and some unbleached white flour, plus a little molasses.

It isn't the lightest bread ever, but it's sweet a little crunchy at the crust.

1 1/2 cups milk (I used nonfat.)
3 T. butter
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 t. salt
1. pkg. yeast
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup unbleached white flour

Heat the milk and melt the butter, molasses, and honey in it. Pour it into a bowl and cool it slightly. Mix in the yeast. Add the whole wheat flour, cornmeal, and salt, then stir in the white flour.

Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 2 hours. (It won't look like much has happened, but don't worry.)

Butter a loaf pan. Pull out the dough, and fold the edges down four times, rotating between each. Shape it into a loaf shape, and place it in the pan. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees, and let the dough rest for about 40 minutes.

Heat up some water to boiling. Put the bread in the oven and the water in a broiler pan or a pie pan on another rack in the oven. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when you knock on it.

(Okay, I've never been sure about that last knocking bit, but that's what they say...)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Count to 10: Barrow Street

I've been reading Barrow Street's 10th Anniversary Issue, and it's been an inspiring journey.

I wanted to link to some poems, especially Nicole Cooley's "Milk" and Tom Daley's "Yes You May," but I wasn't able to find them online. These are poems that I read and think, "Damn, I wish I'd written that." These are poems I can learn—something—from.

It's an indulgent—in the best way—beginning to the New Year (and anything that helps us through January is a blessing).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hot tip on a new poetry book

Over on Blue Positive, Martha posts an inspiring write-up of Come Together: Imagine Peace, a new anthology of poems published by Bottom Dog Press. The Ferlinghetti especially got to me this morning. I ordered my copy right away—before the gym, before breakfast.

Check it out!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chap or Full?

As the deadlines approach, I've been asking myself this. In February, both Floating Bridge Press and Tupelo Press have deadlines for their chapbook contest. (If you know of others, can you pass that information along?)

My current manuscript began as a chapbook. It then evolved into a full-length project. I've come to think of it as a full-length project. But I keep wondering whether I should limit those early poems within the context of a larger book, or whether I should send them out on their own.

I keep imagining Lorna Dee Cervantes asking, "What's at stake?" She posed that question when asking about poems during last year's
LitFuse master class. But I think it's a valid question for a group of poems: What's at stake? Why did I write them? Is it more important to get them out into the world, or to have a full-length book?

Well, when you put it that way...

And then here I am, again, questioning why I fuss so much. Entering a contest is a far, far cry from winning and publication.

So I think I've convinced myself. But I wonder: Do you ever encounter this question? What do you say?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I love the way the snow cloaks the thin branches of the birch across the alley.

Friday, January 2, 2009

This is your brain on...

In Brain Rules, John Medina talks about how the brain works in terms of learning and remembering. It's fascinating the way the brain routes information, separates and re-aggregates it, codes and decodes it, fills in the blanks, and works with split-second timing. (In my case, perhaps split-minute—and if you were at that dinner, you know what I mean.)

Medina explains how exercise can help you think better, how sleep can help you retain the information that you've learned, how using an emotional hook in your presentation can help keep your audience's attention, and how multisensory presentations can help your audience learn.

The book is geared toward learning and retaining what you've learned in the context of academics and business.

My question: What are the brain rules for creativity? If the brain works in certain ways to learn and remember, how does it work when developing or synthesizing new ideas?

Is the creative process, specifically from the brain's perspective, the same for a painter as for a nuclear physicist? Or the business manager trying to come up with a new solution (as opposed to remembering the details of someone else's)?

And are there additional ways that we can enhance that brain work? I'm betting that exercise and sleep still apply, but can we do other things to prepare the brain to create?

Can we help get our head into the creative zone?

Could that be Medina's next book?