friday feast: Adele Kenny’s “To Blueberries” (+ a recipe!)

While nibbling on some of the delectable poems featured in the recently published anthology Feast: Poetry & Recipes for a Full Seating at Dinner (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), I was pleased and excited to come across Adele Kenny’s “To Blueberries.”

You may remember Adele as a 2012 Poetry Potluck guest, when she shared the poignant “Chosen Ghosts” and her grandmother’s recipe for Staffordshire Irish Stew. It’s nice now to read of her love for blueberries, a lyrical paean that interweaves art masterpieces, a popular song title, and a fond childhood memory with luscious sensory details.

Adele has graciously given me permission to share both her poem and the recipe for Bluemisu that’s included in the anthology, and she’s also provided a bit of interesting backstory. It’s always fascinating to learn a little more about how a poet’s mind works, and of course now we’ll all be craving blueberries for days and days — actually, a good thing.🙂

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“Polish Pottery and Blueberries” watercolor by Kara K. Bigda

TO BLUEBERRIES
by Adele Kenny

Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,

Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum

In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!

– Robert Frost, from “Blueberries”

Imagine the “Mona Lisa” with blueberry eyes;
Vincent Van Gogh’s “Blueberry Night;” imagine
Vermeer’s “Girl with a Blueberry Earring” and
Gainsborough’s “Blueberry Boy.” Imagine
blueberries, one at a time, between stained fingers—
sugary, tart—large or small (not all created equal).
Full in the sun, even their shadows are warm:
silvery patina, bluer than blue sky, bluer than blue.
First the pop and then pulp between your teeth.
Listen to the birds (sparrows, chickadees)—blue
fruit sweet in their beaks. Oh, briarless bush! Bluest
fruit. No core, no seeds. Nothing ever to pit or peel.
Definitely not the forbidden fruit, no Eve down on
her knees—never the cost of paradise. Blueberry
muffins, pancakes, wine! Highbush and low—blue
on the crest of Blueberry Hill—and years ago, my
mother mixing the dough for blueberry pies, the
rolling pin round in her hands (our dog asleep
on the kitchen stair), my father at the table, and
me on his lap, close in the curve of his arm.

~ from Feast: Poetry & Recipes for a Full Seating at Dinner, edited by Diane Goettel and Anneli Matheson (Black Lawrence Press, copyright © 2015), reprinted by permission of the author.

“Blueberry Field” oil painting by Joy Laking

 

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Adele: The poem took form during an early morning Chelsea soccer match on TV. Chelsea is my favorite team, and blue is the Chelsea color. During halftime, I got up to make myself a bowl of oatmeal into which I sprinkled some blueberries. As I sat eating with my Yorkie (Chaucer, aka “Chaucey”) beside me, a commercial that included something about Vermeer’s painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” interrupted the halftime commentary. It was at that point that I began to imagine the images in the first four lines of the poem. I jotted down the ideas, the match came back on, and I didn’t return to the poem until a week or two after.

The recipe evolved much later when I needed something sweet for a dinner party I was hosting. Because I love blueberries so much, there are usually some in the refrigerator, especially when I find them on sale. They must have been on sale that week because there were four pints just waiting to be included in dessert for the dinner party. Hence, bluemisu!

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BLUEMISU RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 3 pints fresh blueberries (in winter, frozen blueberries may be substituted for fresh)
  • 1/2 cup unrefined sugar
  • juice of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 12-15 ladyfingers
  • 1/2 cup of any Raspberry Liquor, Chambord, Crème de Cassis, or Crème de Framboise

Instructions

Combine blueberries, unrefined sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and set aside to cool.

Dip each ladyfinger in whichever liquor you decide to use; be sure to soak both sides of each ladyfinger (about five seconds on each side). After dipping, place each ladyfinger on a board to rest while the liquor is infused.

While the ladyfingers rest, combine the heavy cream and confectioner’s sugar. Mix with an electric mixer on low speed until soft peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese and beat to a creamy consistency at a low speed for about two minutes. (If mascarpone cheese is unavailable, you can create a substitute by mixing 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, and 2 tablespoons of sour cream.)

Using a large glass compote, make a ring of ladyfingers around the sides and across the bottom of the compote (trim ladyfingers if necessary). Then spoon a layer of mascarpone cream from step 3 onto the ladyfingers. Next add a layer of the blueberry mixture from step 1, and top that with a layer of ladyfingers. Repeat the layering until the compote is filled and your last layer is mascarpone cream. (Alternatively, you might use a rectangular glass baking dish, or individual dishes.) Chill for about 4 hours. (This dessert keeps well in the refrigerator, so you can prepare it in advance and let it chill overnight.)

Just before serving, garnish with fresh blueberries. Other berries can be added to the garnish if you wish (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries). For chocolate lovers, sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder or bittersweet chocolate shavings on the top layer of mascarpone cream.

Serves 8-10

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ABOUT ADELE

Adele Kenny is the author of 23 books (poetry & nonfiction). Her poems, reviews, and articles have been published in journals here and abroad, as well as in books and anthologies published by Crown, Tuttle, Shambhala, and McGraw-Hill. Her poetry collection, What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011), received the 2012 International Book Award for Poetry. A former creative writing professor in the College of New Rochelle’s Graduate School, Adele is founding director of the Carriage House Poetry Series and has been poetry editor of Tiferet since 2006. Adele is active in readings and conducts both agency-sponsored and private poetry workshops. Her most recent book is A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2015). Visit her Official Website and The Music in It Poetry Blog, where she features guest bloggers or prompts every Saturday.

Enjoy a sample poem from A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All:

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SWEET BOY

Blueberry Dog Treats for Adele’s Yorkie Chaucey (click for recipe)

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poetry fridayLovely Tricia Stohr-Hunt is hosting the Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Take her some blueberries and check out the full menu of poetic goodness on this week’s menu. Have a happy blueberryish weekend!

 

 

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wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best bibs and aprons and come join the fun!

 

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Copyright 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

60 thoughts on “friday feast: Adele Kenny’s “To Blueberries” (+ a recipe!)

  1. Uh, oh. I’m afraid I’m a Manchester United fan, despite it’s recent decline to Ferguson-less darkness, but I can definitely picture Vermeer’s Girl with a Blueberry earring! What a wonderful poem. I sprinkle blueberries into my oatmeal, too. They are the fruit closest to manna. Another great post, Jama!

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  2. YUM, what a great recipe idea! Indeed, all hail the “briarless bush!” Blueberries are right up there with my favorite foods. I got FOUR on my tiny briarless bush last year, but the squirrels ate them first. Someday I will have the field depicted in that painting!

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    1. How cute! Four berries? Too bad the squirrels got them. This year you will have more! At our old house Len had some blueberry bushes. He had to cover them with mesh to keep the robins from getting them.

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  3. “even their shadows are warm” —❤ The most recent blueberries I've eaten had no flavor at all. Had to turn to blackberries to put in my oatmeal. Love the bluemisu idea! And the painting! Lovely post altogether.

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    1. I find with blueberries you have to get lucky — I’ve had some sourish ones and then some really sweet big fat juicy ones. Usually during the winter I get good berries since they often come from South America. Of course the best of the best are Maine wild blueberries!

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  4. There are always blueberries in my refrigerator. I love them and so does the older granddaughter. Blueberry pie is a go-to pie when we want something more than pecan or apple, but now I must try bluemisu. I love the thoughts running through Adele’s mind of those “blueberries” in paintings, too. How wonderful that it sparked that beautiful poem. Thanks again, Jama.

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  5. Jama, when I arrived at your blog, for a moment, I thought it might be summer. Those blueberries burst with the promise of it, though, and I can see past the windy snow showers we had this morning, and know that summer and berries await…. I love how this poem wends its way through all those images of delicious roundness and winds up in the gentle curved crook of an arm. So right.

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  6. I have a confession, I ate oatmeal with blueberries for dinner last night! Perfect post, Jama, for me to savor the memory (another bowl is in my future this weekend as I have a few more blueberries in the fridge). I love the line: “First the pop and then pulp between your teeth.” – Adele captures the sensation perfectly.

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    1. I love having breakfast for dinner sometimes! Actually I’m up for oatmeal with blueberries any time🙂. I think blueberry pancakes may be calling my name next.

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  7. I love blueberries and have them almost daily. So many people I run into prefer the small wild berries, but for me, the plumper the tastier. Great poem and that Blueberry Field painting is amazing!

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    1. I was happy to stumble upon that article about Joy Laking’s work. So beautiful!

      I love BOTH the small wild berries and the big fat ones!

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  8. My, but I love that poem. Especially this bit: “Definitely not the forbidden fruit, no Eve down on her knees”. Wonderful work!

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  9. Full in the sun, even their shadows are warm:
    silvery patina, bluer than blue sky, bluer than blue.

    Oh boy, these lines having me salivating and longing for a blueberry filled summer! I’m tucking away this recipe for those weeks of blueberry picking.

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  10. I’m with Kelly on that guilt-free line, and with everyone else who eats blueberries almost every day! Thanks for sharing all this bluegoodness, Jama, including those exquisite paintings.

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  11. I always (well, almost) begin reading your posts with a YUM in my mind! No exception this week!!

    Here are my favorite lines (and my favorite things about blueberries):

    “Oh, briarless bush! Bluest
    fruit. No core, no seeds. Nothing ever to pit or peel.”

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  12. Wow loved the poems — and all the blue(berry) goodness. Thank goodness they freeze beautifully: a little summer goodness on a snow day.

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  13. Gorgeous pictures and I love the poem. My grandmother over planted blueberry bushes a number of years ago and so my early summer we all have more blueberries than we know what to do with. I’m definitely going to try this recipe. It sounds like a really tasty and different way to use up blueberries.

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  14. Such a gorgeous post–blue is my favorite color and blueberries are one of my favorite fruits. (There’s 3 1/3 pints of them in my fridge at the moment!). The poem is lovely and the Bluemisu recipe sounds divine. Thanks so much for sharing–what a nice peaceful little escape for a few minutes.😉
    Aloha, Deb from Kahakai Kitchen

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  15. “Full in the sun, even their shadows are warm…” mmmmm…. I’m warm after reading that lovely poem– sun warm and heart warm. We once lived in a house that had a large blueberry bush, but the Jays got to the berries before we did. We were there for just one year so never did get a chance to try again.

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    1. Yes, that’s the tricky part about growing berries — you have to get to them before the birds do. Len used netting in the past, but it was kind of sad to find robins tangled up in it.

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  16. It is the first I’m hearing of Adele Kenny – thanks for featuring her poem, Jama. Those blueberries are luscious! I want me some blueberry pie too, like Erik!🙂

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    1. Adele was so gracious to be a Poetry Potluck guest several years ago, and it’s wonderful to keep up with her new books. Chaucey is the perfect Muse.🙂

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