[book review + giveaway] Somos como las nubes/We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta and Alfonso Ruano

“Like the clouds, like dreams, our children come and go. Nothing and no one can stop them.” ~ Jorge Argueta

Immigration is certainly one of the most contentious issues and complex humanitarian challenges facing our country today.

When you hear the word “immigrant,” what kind of mental image pops into your head? Do you picture a destitute Syrian refugee, an adult male attempting to smuggle drugs across the border, or maybe a stereotypical Spanish speaking person in a service-oriented job?

Often when I drive to the library I see a group of young Hispanic males waiting by the side of the road hoping to be picked up for a day’s labor paid for in cash. I wonder about where they came from, how they’re coping, whether their families are intact.

Though I often hear a lot about “undocumented immigrants,” the plight of “unaccompanied immigrant children” wasn’t something I seriously considered until I read Jorge Argueta’s new bilingual poetry book, Somos como las nubes/We Are Like the Clouds (Groundwood Books, 2016).

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Celebrating Susan Branch’s Latest Books with Tasty Words, Pics, and Potato Chip Cookies

“Never let anyone tell you magic doesn’t exist or that fairies aren’t real. It isn’t cynicism that will change the world. Do your best to believe in yourself, and even if you don’t, keep trying to and never give up. If all else fails, use your imagination and pretend.” ~ Susan Branch (Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams)

Though I’ve been a Susan Branch fan for decades, until I read her 3-part illustrated memoir I knew only a little about her personal life or how she started painting, writing, and publishing.

It was love at first sight when I discovered her greeting cards, calendars and illustrated cookbooks back in the late 80’s — I just couldn’t get enough of her beautiful handwritten recipes and inspirational quotes, the cozy, quaint watercolors of old fashioned baskets, bowls, and quilts, those scrumptious fruits, veggies, cakes and pies. Oh, the checkered floors! The Laura Ashley hats and exquisite floral borders! That iconic vintage stove! I wanted to inhabit the world of her homemade books; they were charming, unique, and most important, personal.

You may remember how much I adored A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside (review here). It convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Susan was even more of a kindred spirit with her love of Beatrix Potter, the Yorkshire Dales, afternoon tea, the Cotswolds, Emma Bridgewater, and the Queen!

But it wasn’t until I read the prequels to A Fine RomanceThe Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams  (both based on her diaries) — that I gained a true appreciation for how this self-taught artist built her career from scratch, how the first seeds were actually planted in childhood, and how she’s been able to effectively elevate the various facets of homemaking (cooking, sewing, gardening, interior decorating) to a fine art.

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friday feast: “The Self-Playing Instrument of Water” by Alice Oswald (+ giveaway winner)

“If I break my leg I’ll go to a doctor, if I break my heart, or if the world breaks my spirit, I will go to a poet.” (Jeanette Winterson, 2007)

Life-giving, purifying, restorative. Here’s a moment of lyrical beauty to savor, note by note.

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THE SELF-PLAYING INSTRUMENT OF WATER
by Alice Oswald

It is the story of the falling rain
To turn into a leaf and fall again

It is the secret of a summer shower
To steal the light and hide it in a flower

And every flower a tiny tributary
That from the ground flows green and momentary

Is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

If only I a passerby could pass
As clear as water through a plume of grass

To find the sunlight hidden at the tip
Turning to seed a kind of lifting raindrip

Then I might know like water how to balance
The weight of hope against the light of patience

Water which is so raw so earthy-strong
And lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

Drawn under gravity towards my tongue
To cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

Which is the story of the falling rain
That rises to the light and falls again

~ Copyright © 2013 Alice Oswald.

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I only just discovered Alice Oswald’s poetry a few months ago. I loved this poem from the opening lines — an astute observation expressed in deceptively simple terms.

In a reading she gave at Boston University two years ago, Oswald likened the water cycle — how water returns and returns — to the roll of a pianola, an instrument she loved as a child.

As water takes the path of least resistance, so her stanzas, with their absence of punctuation, naturally flow one into another, without the impediment of cliché or predictability. Upon first reading, I was so taken with her pristine diction and following her train of thought that I wasn’t aware of the rhyming couplets! I love her skillful use of slant rhyme, too.

A former gardener who read Classics at New College, Oxford, Alice now lives on the Dartington Estate in Devon with her husband and three children. She is the recipient of the TS Eliot Prize, the Ted Hughes Award, and the Foreword Prize.

In an interview with Susannah Herbert at The Guardian, she said:

To be a poet is as serious, long-term and natural as the effort to be the best human you can be. To express something well is not a question of having a top-class education and understanding poetic forms: rather, it’s a question of paying attention.

Today’s poem, retitled “A Short Story of Falling,” appears in Oswald’s 7th poetry collection, Falling Awake (W.W. Norton, 2016).

At a time when the world feels toxic and unbearable, I was grateful for this poetic cleansing.

Here’s Alice reading her poem at BU:

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 🍭HORRIBLY HUNGRY GINGERBREAD BOY GIVEAWAY WINNER! 📘

You’ll forgive me if I’m a little out of breath. Been chasing that rascally Gingerbread Boy all week. Wanted him to pick our giveaway winner. It wasn’t easy catching up with him, let me tell you. I sprinted all over San Francisco (thankfully I was able to have lunch in Chinatown to fortify myself in the process). Though the city was beautiful and I enjoyed seeing all the wonderful landmarks mentioned in the story, to my dismay the Gingerbread Boy was nowhere to be found. Sigh.

Wise Mr Cornelius suggested I contact our dear friend M. Random Integer Generator directly. He is, after all, a robust gastronome who can sniff out gingerbread an ocean away. Some of you may remember that tracking down M. Generator can sometimes be tricky in itself. Double sigh. Thankfully M. Generator answered my telegram right away. Seems the Gingerbread Boy had already devoured the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and half the Arc de Triomphe. Mon Dieu! Quelle Catastrophe!

Mais, as soon as M. Generator told the GBB we needed him to pick a winner, he flew to the Alphabet Soup kitchen in a wink. After a little snack (34 apple pies, 54 Twix bars, 4 gallons of lemonade), our favorite Gingerbread Boy reached into the cookie jar and picked a name.

The winner of a brand new copy of THE HORRIBLY HUNGRY GINGERBREAD BOY is —

*drum roll, please*

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*trumpet fanfare*

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uh-huh

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katmaz2012!

🎈HOORAY! CONGRATULATIONS!! 🎉

Thanks to everyone for entering the giveaway!

(Best to back away before the Gingerbread Boy eats you.)

Just kidding.

Hey, one of my ears is missing.

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poetry fridayThe clever and talented witty ditty darling Michelle Barnes is hosting the Roundup at Today’s Little Ditty. Be sure to sashay on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week!

 


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

celebrating roald dahl’s 100th birthday with a foodie alphabet and an orange raspberry victoria sponge

#53 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

HAPPY ROALD DAHL DAY!

It’s time to polish off a few tummyticklers, plushnuggets and globgobblers. Wash it all down with a big tall glass of frobscottle and you’re all set (no whizzpopping, please).🙂

I was actually introduced to Roald Dahl’s writing by one of my high school students in Wimbledon. Danny M. (who made good chocolate chip cookies and scoped out a yummy bagel shop in Queensway) raved about a collection of Dahl’s adult short stories called Kiss Kiss. Though I do not have a taste for the macabre, I found the stories addictive and loved the surprise endings.

After I read as much of his adult fiction as I could find, I moved on to Dahl’s children’s books, impressed by the eyebrow-raising irreverence and sardonic wit, delighted by the clever, inventive wordplay and generous servings of lickswishy, delumptious treats. He was unlike any author I’d read in my childhood. There was nothing Pollyanna or namby pamby about any of his magical stories, and I liked his recurring themes of child empowerment, justice and retribution. He made it okay to be a nonconformist, appealing to the inner rebel in all of us.

Whenever I’m asked about my favorite food-related children’s books, the first that comes to mind is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Here was every child’s dream come true — a world where everything was sweet and edible. I want my own Oompa-Loompas, and even if Mr. Wonka wouldn’t approve, just once I’d like to drink from his river of hot melted chocolate.

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[Review + Chat + Giveaway] Elisa Kleven on The Horribly Hungry Gingerbread Boy

Though there are runaway pancakes, latkes, matzo balls, rice cakes, tortillas, and dumplings, when it comes to fleet-footed fleeing food, no one can top the gingerbread man.

As a scrumptious treat, he’s been around for centuries. Did you know Her Royal Gingerness Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the first man-shaped cookie? She liked to give important guests gingerbread likenesses of themselves.🙂

As a beloved cumulative folktale, The Gingerbread Man first appeared in print in late 19th century America. This cheeky rascal has been on the run and taunting his pursuers ever since!

Still, for as many times as you’ve read his story, have you ever felt sorry for him or wondered what could have happened if there hadn’t been a wily fox to snatch him up?

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