the shockingly clever guest: karen edmisten

#3 in the Poetry Potluck series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2010.

photo by tomanthony.

Clever is as clever does, and I say it’s always good to invite a shockingly clever person to a poetry party.

Take Karen Edmisten, for example. She brought a finely wrought, exquisitely nuanced poem using bread as a central metaphor. Yes, give us this day our daily bread, and with it, a beautiful reflection on marriage.

Her poem reminded me that things worth having — whether they are relationships, a good piece of writing, or a delicious loaf of bread – are the result of patience, conscious effort, allowing time for maturation, and keeping the faith through the sometimes unwieldly process of growth.

And the really shockingly clever part? Karen carried a cup of coffee all the way from Nebraska and it’s still hot!

photo by katbaro.


like marriage,
requires the promise
of leavening.

There is flour and water —
foundation — yes,
but it begs
something more:
fermentation, lather,
and growth.
It must take on life,
risk failure,
swell in size,
though never
sloppily escape
its necessary confines.

My husband
mixes flour
and water,
baking bread for me.
It is nothing,
he says.

It is everything,
I counter,
as I watch him
measure, stir yeast
and add salt,
carefully constructing a promise.

© 2010 Karen Edmisten. All rights reserved.

photo by jasmic.

How much do I love that Karen’s husband’s blog name is “Atticus”? She was also exceedingly clever to marry a man who bakes. Thanks, both of you, for more than rising to the occasion ☺!

Atticus’ French Bread 

1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. milk
1T. sugar
1T. canola or olive oil
2 1/4 t. yeast and 1/4 cup warm water, dash of sugar
4 c. flour
2 t. sugar
2 t. salt

Scald milk, remove from heat. Add boiling water and T. of sugar and oil. Set aside and allow to cool.

Dissolve yeast in warm water, throw in dash of sugar, and let sit about 10 minutes while milk mixture cools.

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt.

Add the yeast to the milk mixture, then add that to the flour. Mix thoroughly. (This is a “no-knead” recipe, but what’s the fun of bread if you don’t knead it a little?)

Let rise in bowl to about double the size (about 90 minutes, but I sometimes take shortcuts.)

Form into two loaves, and place on greased cookie sheet. Let rise about 45 min.

Bake @ 400 degrees for 15 min., then lower temp to 350, and bake 30-40 min. Five min. before bread is done, brush with egg wash (1 beaten egg white and 1 T. water.)

(Option: for a softer Italian style bread, bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 min.)


Karen Edmisten is a freelance writer, homeschooling mother of three, and fervent coffee drinker who blogs at Karen Edmisten: The Blog with the Shockingly Clever Title. Her articles have appeared in numerous Catholic publications, and her first book, The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary (St. Anthony Messenger Press and Franciscan Communications), was just released in May 2009. We share a love of Ted Kooser, Billy Collins, and Quimbyish girls named Ramona. I allow her to shock me every week.


Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.



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