sitting down with kelly fineman

#19 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2010.

  “Tea with Rosebuds in Romantic Cup” by Michael Paul.
(Available as a print here.)


You’re just in time for a cup of tea!

Now, if I said, “Jane Austen,” “poetic forms,” “dead white poets” and garden gnomes, whom would you think of?

Kelly Fineman of course! Like me, you’re probably a fan of Writing and Ruminating, where Kelly displays her literary brilliance on a daily basis. For almost three years, I’ve been reading her amazing blog and I’m not bragging one bit when I say that as a result I’m much smarter ☺. *basks in newfound intelligence*

When it comes to poetry, Kelly knows her stuff. When she features a poem, there’s usually a detailed explication, a bit of backstory, personal notes, even illuminating digression. Yes, Kelly loves to digress . . .

For the Potluck, she sent a sonnet about her grandfather’s chair. It was prompted by a weekly writing exercise she did with her writing partner, Angela De Groot. They were to begin with, “His chair . . . ”

Kelly: The chairs in my dining room belonged to my grandparents, and his chair still sits at the head of the table every night. Interestingly, hubby prefers an armless chair, so it’s as if my grandfather has his own place still, even though he died about 25 years ago.

Grandfather’s Chair © 2010 Kelly Fineman.


His chair — the one he sat in when he ate —
Remains his chair a quarter century
After he died, though nobody but me
Realizes this is true; at any rate,
My husband and children, who came too late
Into my life, have no idea that he
Is present at our meals each night as we
Inhabit lesser chairs. No empty plate
Is set (as if Elijah might attend —
It strikes me that St. Paul’s a better choice)
I’m certain that they could not comprehend
How large his presence was — more than his voice
Could fill a room — his laugh, even his breath,
Live in my memory long past his death.

© 2010 Kelly R. Fineman. All rights reserved.

What a lovely reflection! I like imagining Kelly with this private thought as she sits for dinner. Aren’t family heirlooms fascinating? Her sonnet reminded me of visiting Jane Austen’s home in Chawton. Interestingly enough, the chairs in the dining room were also “lesser chairs” — four women sat at this table: Jane, her sister, Cassandra, Jane’s mother, and their long-time family friend, Martha Lloyd. Talk about a large presence filling a room! I can just picture Kelly sitting at the table with these ladies and chatting about the events of the day. Kelly, if you could ask Jane just one question, what would it be?

Chawton dining room by teresue.

Speaking of tables and chairs, can you believe Austen revised and/or wrote all six of her major novels while sitting at this tiny table in the front sitting room? But I digress . . .

Austen writing table and chair by sarah ♦ brown.

Now, we must have something to go with our tea. Kelly offers a recipe which she calls “loosey-goosey” because she made it up herself. The addition of chocolate chips is quite fitting, since Jane liked chocolate for breakfast.


© 2010 Kelly Fineman.

For one loaf:

2-3 mashed bananas (I just chuck them into my Kitchen Aid stand mixer to start)

Blend with:

1/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. milk
1/4 c. oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg


2 c. flour
2-1/4 tsp. baking powder
2/3 c. chocolate chips

Put into greased bread pan (the spray with flour in it is magic). Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes.

Recipe can easily be doubled. Tripling it is, however, a mistake.

*I’ve never had chocolate chips in banana bread before. Yum. I might take to wearing empire-waisted dresses, bonnets, and silk stockings as a result. Thanks, Kelly!


Kelly R. Fineman is a children’s author and poet whose work has appeared in Summer Shorts (Blooming Tree Press, 2006), Write Your Own Poetry (Compass Point Books, 2008), and several magazines, including Highlights for Children, Kid Magazine Writers, and Up & Under. Recently, she placed third in the Writer’s Digest Poetry Contest, and every year, she serves as Poetry Coordinator for the Cybils Awards. Besides Writing and Ruminating, Kelly blogs at I.N.K. and Guys Lit Wire.

She’s currently working on a verse biography of Jane Austen, several picture books, and a chapter book called Garden Gnomes Gone Wild, which may very well become a very wild series. For National Poetry Month, she’s “Building a Poetry Collection” with inter-related classic poems, and this June she’ll be reprising her popular “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” series (she also posts a Shakespeare poem every Wednesday). I had the pleasure of meeting this Poetry Princess last summer, and can attest to her civility, refinement, and general adorableness (accentuated by her cool professorial eyewear). We both love British accents, good tea, and the sight of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in a wet shirt.

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

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