friday feast: greg pincus dishes on the late bird

“The Late Bird”
by Greg Pincus

The early bird gets the worm
All slime and muck and dirt,
But here’s what they don’t tell you, friend …
The Late Bird gets dessert.


Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s . . .It’s . . .

Um, he should be here any minute. Greg may be just a tad late. This sometimes happens when you’re faster than a speeding cannoli, more powerful than a rum baba, able to leap tall croquembouches in a single bound.

Hey, I don’t mind waiting. When it comes to dessert, Greg Pincus and I are totally simpatico. Time stands still for tiramisu and tarte tatin. Because he writes a lot of foodie poems, he’s totally worth waiting for.☺

As soon as he arrives, we’ll chat about his new E-book, The Late Bird, which contains more than 50 funny, quirky, smirky poems, and then Chef Greg will serve up three mouthwatering verses and a favorite dessert recipe. I’ve always believed that behind every great author/poet/writer there is great food. If you’ve always wanted to know what inspires Pincus’s pastry poetry, you’ve come to the right place. He’ll take the lid off his chocolate sauce and reveal just what keeps his creative juices bubbling.

So, brace yourselves. There will be drooling. Divine decadence. Nuts and whipped cream. Even a little flaky flirtation.

Oh look, here he is now (with a good reason for being late)!

*trumpet flourish*

Friends, poets, dessert lovers, hand me your plates!

I give you Greg Pincus, the Late Bard who wrote every word of The Late Bird!



How and why did you decide on “The Late Bird” as the title of your collection?

The poem, “The Late Bird,” has always held a happy place in my heart. First off, I like it! But it also was a poem that I wrote that seemed to unleash a torrent of poetry, so it holds a good memory there, too. From a practical point of view, I wanted a short-ish title that would create a reaction from a reader (like “Huh? What does late bird mean?”) and would have a central image that could lend itself to an illustration.

Marbled Ricotta Cheesecake Brownies via Imagelicious Photography

Now that you’ve successfully produced your first eBook, could you share three of the most important things you’ve learned about the process? Is there anything you’ll do differently next time?

1) Make sure your manuscript is polished and done before you decide to publish… and know WHY you’re publishing.

2) The cover matters. I got a great one from Bonnie Adamson (, and I turned to her because I know I cannot do them on my own. They MATTER.

3) For text based files (rather than, say, picture books), the process of e-pubbing is easier than you think. Don’t be scared off by the technical aspects (though again, see number 1 above).

Each project will have different goals, so I’ll do different things.  Knowing your goals beforehand helps define the steps you’ll take. With the next book, I plan to give myself more lead time from saying “yes, I’ll do this!” until release date so that I can, perhaps, line up some fun things to coincide with the launch. I had no plans to do that with The Late Bird, however, so the timing was less of a concern.

Please tell us a little about your lifelong relationship with dessert. Do you still like the same things now as you did when you were a kid?

Just for the record, the rumor that as an infant my first solid food was chocolate is completely untrue. I find my dessert tastes don’t change radically as I grow up. In fact, nothing falls off the list of desserts I love… and new things join it all the time.  It is possible this means I’ve never grown up, of course, but what can you do.

Torta Caprese via Food Lover’s Odyssey

Now, this doesn’t mean I eat the same desserts now as when I was younger, of course. I eat fewer of them, choose to eschew ice cream for the most part, and focus on the exceptional rather than on the merely yummy. Or in more empirical terms… I’ll treat myself to a fabulous piece of homemade chocolate cake rather than a piece of Sara Lee chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I mean, if there’s an OPTION!

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie via Nikoo’s Photos

Desserts to flirt with: chocolate chip cookies, apple pie, cinnamon buns (wait! that’s a breakfast food, right?), glazed donuts (and the occasional maple-bacon donut, too)

Desserts to marry: pecan pie; a perfect bread pudding; flourless chocolate cake

Desserts you’d never go out with: dry tarts, plain sheet b-day cakes with too sweet frosting (a lost opportunity!), tasteless custards as found in most buffet desserts

If you were banished to a poetry dessert island (where poets are required to write about desserts and only desserts for the rest of their lives), what one dessert would you take with you? Which poets (dead or alive) would you hope to see there to keep you amused and inspired?

I’d bring bread pudding à la mode with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, since the proper spice mixture in a bread pudding can lead to endless poetry and the rest can be combined for many decadent joys. Also, man can live by bread pudding alone….

Caramelized Chocolate Bread Pudding via Furey & the Feast

I’d never want to see a fellow living poet trapped on an island, so I’ll choose John Donne (just to debate whether man can be a dessert island or not), Shel Silverstein, and Dr. Seuss. And I’d be curious to see if together we could come up with new rhymes for “pudding.”

Which comes first, eating a particular food or writing a poem about it? What food (s) inspires your best poetry?

Oddly, I have no sure answer to either question. Some poems start from a food, some start from an idea (“Hey, is there a Late Bird??? What does he get, if not worms?”), some start from a point of view, some just kinda spring forth from I don’t know where.  So for question one I say “absolutely!”

For question two… I believe, but cannot prove, that coffee and a dessert sparks all my best poetry… though sometimes there’s a delay involved. I mean, it could be a week or two gap between indulgence and poetry, but it was still the dessert that led to the good work, I believe. This is why it’s important to keep eating desserts on a regular basis, otherwise I would lose my muse entirely.

Are you naturally funny? Who or what makes you laugh?

Funny is so subjective. I think I see the world slightly askew and do a good job expressing and sharing that point of view. Some people find it funny, and that’s good enough for me. I tend to laugh at fresh ideas, clever wordplay, and someone showing me a different way to see something I thought I’d seen a million times before.

Do you think “writing funny” can be taught? Any tips for those wanting to write humorous poetry?

I think funny comes from how you see the world… or how your character does. I think we can all become better observers and learn to share what we see better. I think funny can be taught, at least up to a point, but I don’t think it needs to be. We all see the world differently, and that’s good.

I think with humorous poetry, two big keys are to avoid the obvious and avoid writing just to get to a joke. (Well, unless your whole poem is a joke or pun, of course).  Keeping folks off balance so they don’t see the twist/punch line coming is also a big part of what works, at least for me when I read it.

Anything else you’d like to add about The Late Bird?

I might be biased, but I think The Late Bird is a great end of school gift, birthday gift or, truly, any occasion gift. What says “I’m thinking of you” more than funny poetry? Again, this might be biased thinking since I haven’t had a dessert in a few days. But I doubt it.



Buttermilk Pancakes via Baha’i News/Flitzy Phoebie

“The Answer is a Waffle” is one of my favorite poems to share in a class because there’s always this moment where someone realizes that the title itself is a key part of the poem, that it has meaning in a couple different ways, and that that is really cool. This leads to great talks about titles of books and poems and how important they can be, and it makes kids look for “hidden” meanings in word choices throughout poems and novels, too (at least for the time I’m there and, I hope, beyond!).


What’s my favorite breakfast food?
That’s easy to decide.
It’s eggs cooked over easy with some bacon on the side.

Although, it might be cereal.
Or maybe jam and toast.
Actually, it’s cream of wheat that I enjoy most.

Or maybe, come to think of it,
It’s bagels with some lox.
Or maybe pancakes. No, it’s fruit, cut up in bite size blocks.

Or wait a second. Let me think:
A restaurant buffet!
Or maybe it’s, well, I don’t know…
I guess I just can’t say.

~ from The Late Bird, Copyright © 2012 Greg Pincus. All rights reserved.


(click for Double Stack S’mores recipe)

I love s’mores. So, I was thinking of them (admit it – you’ve done that, too), and the word s’mores led me to the rhyme of snores which led me to the thought of a campfire at night. From there, the whole poem became a love song to a fantastic food.


The campfire burns. It’s 9:08.
I feel so good cuz I just ate
Two graham crackers, and chocolate, too,
With marshmallow turned to warm, white goo.
A treat indeed, a dripping mess.
A touch of melty joy — oh yes!
It’s bedtime soon, but I’m not done.
I simply cannot stop at one.
Because, you see, it takes three s’mores
To make a night of happy s’nores.

~ from The Late Bird, Copyright © 2012 Greg Pincus. All rights reserved.


Maple Glazed Doughnuts via creampuffsinvenice

The inspiration for Doughnuts! is not only my love of doughnuts (and donuts) but also a specific memory: long ago, my mother and I were watching the news on TV, and there was a story about how unhealthy some well-loved foods were. To illustrate the unhealthiness, the news story showed doughnuts being dunked in boiling oil and dripping off fat and… well… my mother and I both realized that the story simply made us want doughnuts! No one eats them as a health food, ya know? They’re yummy, and that’s just how it is. 


Doughnuts! Oh, doughnuts! Fried circles of yum.
You food that I simply adore.
You’re sure not nutritious, but you’re so delicious
I’m always left wishing for more.

I love you with frosting or covered in sprinkles.
I swoon for you, sweet, sugar raised!
When you’re filled with jelly, you warm up my belly…
While still leaving room for a glazed.

I’ll dip you in coffee or dunk you in milk.
I’ll eat you for breakfast or brunch.
I get so impassioned for simple old-fashioned
That sometimes I make them my lunch.

Doughnuts! Oh, doughnuts! Definers of yum.
You perfect fried circles of dough.
Although you’re caloric, you leave me euphoric…
So give me a dozen to go!

~ from The Late Bird, Copyright © 2012 Greg Pincus. All rights reserved. 




I love to cook and bake, though sadly I have little time to do so. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I baked anything besides cookies or brownies. However, I will share the first dessert recipe I ever asked for — from my high school math teacher!


1/2 stick butter
1-1/2 cups sugar (I prefer less as this makes the pie a bit too sweet for me, personally)
3 heaping tablespoons cocoa (or maybe four :-))
1 small can evaporated milk (approx. 5-6 oz)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Melt the butter and add all other ingredients with it. Stir til smooth. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Put in oven, turn temp down to 325 and cook for approximately 40 minutes.

It’s the essence of chocolate and sweetness. And, of course, no calories or fat!!!! (That, uh, may not be entirely true, by the way.)

Jama’s note: I made this pie a few days ago using Scharffen Berger cocoa. Hello! Deeply yummy. I think cutting back on the sugar to 1 cup is a good idea. Should also mention that I made it because Greg twisted my arm is so rich, he paid me to do it. Poets do make piles of money, you know. Check it:



The Late Bird is now available for your Nook or Kindle! You can also download a free Nook or Kindle app to read the book on any iDevice.

♥ Were you asleep during Poetry Month and by chance missed Greg’s appearance at No Water River? Love his reading of “I Went to the Farm Where Spaghetti is Grown” and his Snickerview™ with Renée LaTulippe.

♥ Don’t miss Greg’s E-book Adventures at The Happy Accident for more tips and backstory about The Late Bird: Part One, Part Two.

♥ Lots more poems and fun at Gottabook!


The warm and lovely Katya is hosting today’s Roundup at Write. Sketch. Repeat. Take her a bit of dessert and enjoy all the other delicious offerings being served up in the blogosphere this week.

“Our revels now are ended.” ~ the other Bard


Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


49 thoughts on “friday feast: greg pincus dishes on the late bird

    1. As a night person myself, I just may steal that “late bird gets dessert” line. Who wants a worm, anyway? ;-P

      Also, Jama, I constantly want to eat the pictures on your blog–especially today!


  1. Oh, this is all so delicious! Thanks for featuring Greg on the other side of the interviewer’s desk, Jama. Congrats, Greg, on this great new collection! Now my stomach is rumbling. I’m off to breakfast, AFTER I click to purchase this e-book. (Does the great mug come with it? ;0) )

    Also, I’m happy, as a haiku millionaire, to see the video posted here. I was just talking about it up at the Highlights Founders poetry workshop this week.


    1. You’re a millionaire too? So it’s really true! Wonder how all you poets managed to keep this secret under wraps for so long?! 😀


    2. It’s nice to see one of the Haiku Millionaires here! Thanks for you comments (here and at my blog, too), and for the purchase. Much appreciated!


  2. Excuse me while I put Poetry Friday on hold and go into the kitchen and make Chocolate Chess Pie.
    I’m not sure I agree that it takes three s’mores to make happy s’nores… from my experience it sometimes takes at least four or five. 🙂


    1. LOL — I see that you also worship at the altar of chocolate. Okay, I’ll take four or five, if you insist . . .


  3. What a delectable post!!!! Thank you, Jama and Greg! (And I have to agree with Robyn — that’s a great mug.)


    1. We’re all coveting Greg’s mug — I’m sure anything you drink out of it tastes better. I really need a donut now, too.


    1. Yes, I have to agree about doughnuts. Every once in awhile I crave a filled doughnut, but the ultimate is always a plain glazed — you know the way the glaze cracks as you bite into it? Ahhhhhh.


  4. FABULOUS. Now I am starving. Since I am ever an early-bird, I may have to change my ways. What a fun, fun selection of poems – and a fun dessert guest! Greg is just the best, isn’t he?


  5. Let’s see. Do I want breakfast or Chocolate Chess Pie? Maybe I’ll have Chocolate Chess Pie for breakfast. That’s the ticket. Love these poems, Greg. And your post, Jama!


    1. Love the way your mind works. FYI, I actually did have Chocolate Chess Pie for breakfast two days ago :). Thanks, Doriane!


  6. This was a great exchange. Love that selection of poems from The Late Bird, too. (“The Answer Is A Waffle” is just the perfect title for that poem.) Thanks Jama and Greg! -Ed


    1. Duh, it took me awhile before I caught onto the waffle title thing. It’s a great moment when you finally catch on :).


  7. He recommends desserts to aid creation and he rhymes caloric with euphoric! Now I see why you like him so much! – Ruth from


    1. Yes, you’re absolutely right, Ruth. I’ve always maintained that sweets, especially chocolate, is conducive to great creative work 🙂 — Greg has confirmed this!


    2. Are there really any people who don’t think desserts aid in creation of great ideas? I scoff at them! Scoff! But even then, I’ll share rhymes with them gladly 🙂


  8. I read this early in this am, & then ran out of time to comment. It’s just such a lovely & fun post Jama. I thought about Greg’s approach to looking at things, like the doughnut poem, which I agree with totally, but it would so rarely occur to me to write about them in that way. It is a special gift to look at the usual & make it funny & unusual, hence the “late bird”. I downloaded the book since Greg first announced it, knowing I would find a chuckle every time I read. What I didn’t know until today is what a food lover he is. The photos are amazing to see (& drool over). Thanks for all Jama.


    1. You were very wise to download the book right away! When you think about it, you get so much for less than the price of an average greeting card. As Greg mentioned, I think it’s a great little gift that will cheer people up. Any poet who praises doughnuts and s’mores is alright by me :).


  9. Jama-
    OK. I gotta admit it– I have a love/hate relationship with your blog. First, I love coming over here, because you always have terrific posts. I have been wanting to download THE LATE BIRD on my kindle, but just have not gotten around to it in the craziness of the last month of school/prom/graduation. I am definitely going to do it today.
    And the reason I HATE coming to your blog– it always makes me think about food!!! Right now, it’s 7 in the morning, and all i can think about is something gooey and chocolate! YIKES! OK, maybe I will go get a scone or something sweetish!
    Thanks for another terrific post!


    1. LOL — imagine if you’re the one writing this blog — being the one to have to search for those pictures and stare at them all day long — dangerous work, but somebody’s gotta do it! I do think everyone should have a doughnut this weekend in Greg’s honor, or maybe bake a chocolate chess pie. So yummy!


  10. I’ve enjoyed the poetry! wonderful post. It’s really making me hungry for dessert and now I wouldn’t know what to have first, the donuts or the cookies, the bread pudding, oh I am definitely a late bird!


  11. A yummy post! Quite drool-worthy.

    You and Greg both make me smile and shake my head!! Where’s KidLitCon this year? I’m hoping for the chance to experience your wits and puns live and in person!!


  12. Oh dear, I’m drooling all over my toothache! What a fun post. I bought Greg’s book when he first announced it and it’s fabulous! You two are so much fun! But I’m glad I read this after dinner, or I think I’d be off to the donut store.


  13. Whew. I finally overcame technical difficulties so I can thank you all – from Jama for the post to all of you who have left comments – for reading and hanging here. And for joining me in drooling over the pictures Jama finds. Never have my words looked so delicious!

    So thank you collectively and individually. Now… who’s up for some pie???


    1. Glad you figured things out — an acceptable reason for being fashionably late to this shindig. Of course, we’ll have to take your word for it — are you sure you weren’t preoccupied with other doughnuts?


  14. Poetry and dessert–two of my favorite things! What a delightful post, and congratulations to Greg! Thanks for sharing some of the poems from the book. Our family just finished off a box of doughnuts yesterday so I especially loved “Doughnuts! Oh, Doughnuts!” Yummm!


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