poetry potluck 2011 complete menu and giveaway winners


Happy Monday and Happy May!

Can’t believe how fast time flies — Poetry Month is already over.

But what a time we had — welcoming Spring, kite-fishing from lighthouses, communing with elephants, flirting with the devilishly dangerous Mr. Dark Chocolate himself. We read about several beloved grandparents, traveled to Vienna with Mozart, even crowned a Pineapple Princess. And I got to try six new recipes: Lemon Waffles, Chili Dip, Cheatin’ Shells, Chocolate Shortbread, Carrot Soup and Lucky Pea Soup. Nom nom!
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poetry potluck finale: kelli russell agodon’s lucky pea soup

#20 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2011.

Emily: “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.”

She enters, and a hush falls upon the room.

Our final Potluck Poet is here!

No better way to top off a poetry feast than with a tasty soup poem cooked up by the lovely and supremely talented Kelli Russell Agodon! I first learned about Kelli through Susan Rich, who was a surprise guest at last year’s potluck. After reading Kelli’s latest book, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room (White Pine Press, 2010), I knew I just had to offer it as a prize in this year’s Big Poetry Giveaway.

The Emily Dickinson Room of the title refers to a guest room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel (“truly a hotel for book lovers”), located at Nye Beach, Oregon. All the rooms are named after famous authors such as Shakespeare, Austen, Tolkien, even Dr. Seuss! Kelli apparently wrote some of her poems at the hotel, which looks like the perfect sanctuary for writers with its gorgeous views of the ocean, quaint old buildings and interesting cross-section of guests. And I love that the name of their restaurant is “Tables of Content.” Would that I could set a table where fabulous food and lasting contentment were the order of the day!

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kate coombs brings a hot dish

#19 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2011.

Hola! ¿Qué pasa?

The lovely and brilliant Kate Coombs, Ms. Book Aunt herself, is here to spice things up! I just learned she speaks fluent Spanish and comes from a very cool multiethnic family — a blend of Caucasian, Korean, Filipino, and Samoan. I’d call that a pretty tasty mix, wouldn’t you? Think about it: pancakes for breakfast, japchae and kimchi for lunch, pancit for dinner. Yum!

Today, Kate’s sharing three poems inspired by her teaching experiences in a primarily Latino district near downtown Los Angeles. They are from an unpublished bilingual collection called Street of Songs, and will whet your appetite for pupusas and tamales. Hot stuff!

Pico-Union street scene

Kate: Street of Songs/Calle de Canciones is a group of poems about the life of a third grader named Lily Quiñonez who lives in L.A.’s Pico-Union neighborhood. My inspiration was teaching elementary school for five years in that part of L.A. — actually Koreatown, but the local population, not the working population, is predominantly Latino.

Then I became a teacher for the school district’s home/hospital program. I was invited to the children’s homes for birthday parties while at the grade school, and I’ve spent a lot of time since in Latino homes as a teacher of seriously ill students — cancer and post-surgery patients, among others. I’ve met so many terrific kids, and mischievous kids, you name it. I wanted other people to meet them, too! So I began writing about them, and I ended up with the Lily poems.

via Andrea

by Kate Coombs

Corn grows along the fence
of my godmother’s house,
a row of green Aztec feathers.

Inside each ear,
yellow pyramids yearn
to step up to the sun.

© 2011 Kate Coombs. All rights reserved.


via mattmadden123

by Kate Coombs

Have you ever bitten
into a chili like a dragon’s smile
and breathed out a red sun?

© 2011 Kate Coombs. All rights reserved.


via Andy Hagedon

Ay caramba! My mouth’s on fire. Good thing Kate brought a poem to cool things down. Ahhhhhhh!

via Matushka Elizabeth

by Kate Coombs

I chase the little cart breathless
with my three quarters and choose
a hidden treasure from its cold heart.

Now the mango ice slides
down the stick like rain
down the stem of an orange flower

as I try to eat my paleta lick by lick
before the sun can swallow it.

© 2011 Kate Coombs. All rights reserved.


Paleteria in Northeast L.A.

I’m quite jealous as I’ve never had a paleta before. And I love mango! Lucky Lily. The collection sounds wonderful and I hope to see it in print sometime soon. But now, tengo hambre (I’m hungry)!

Kate: I will admit I’m usually writing or teaching rather than cooking, but this is one of my sure-fire recipes. I got it from a friend of the family. It is astonishingly tasty and, better yet, extremely easy to make.




1 (15 or 16-oz.) can of chili; I use Stagg’s Turkey Ranchero
1 (8 oz.) package of cream cheese


Put the chili in a microwave-safe dish and plop the cream cheese on top. Heat till the cream cheese melts about halfway and stir mixture; then heat another 30-60 seconds (depending on your microwave). Stir to blend well. The dip should have a creamy consistency and be pale orange in color. Let cool for five minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips — blue corn if you want to get fancy.

Note: Try to avoid eating the whole thing yourself!

Well, I couldn’t resist trying this dip and served it on Easter. The unanimous reaction: Es la bomba! Kate was absolutely right. Really tasty, lipsmackingly delish, and very addictive. I imagine depending on the brand or hotness of the chili you use, flavors could vary quite a bit. Only one thing to do — try lotsa different chilis till you find the one that titillates your tortilla chips. ☺

Author, poet, teacher and Curriculum Specialist Kate Coombs writes for children and teens, and has published an original folktale, The Secret-Keeper (Atheneum, 2006), and two middle grade comic fantasies, The Runaway Princess (2006) and The Runaway Dragon (2009), both released by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Honors include ALA Notable Book and Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year for The Runaway Princess, and Junior Library Guild Selection and Parents’ Choice Recommended Book for The Secret-Keeper.

Kate has been writing poems, plays and stories since childhood, and began writing fairy tales right after college. Her most recent publication is a short story, “Impossible Quests,” in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress XXV. She has three more books in the pipeline: a retelling of the Grimms’ folktale, Hans My Hedgehog (Atheneum, 2012), a book of ocean poems, The Water Sings Blue (Chronicle, 2012), and another picture book from Atheneum called The Tooth Fairy Wars (pub date TBD). Kate is currently revising her first YA paranormal, and is planning a third Runaway book. You can find Kate online at her official website, book review blog, Book Aunt, and at Miss Rumphius’s Monday Poetry Stretches. She’s also a regular Poetry Friday participant and has been known, on select occasions, to flicker her nostrils with abandon (well, she does cavort with dragons). Correction to blog title: Kate Coombs IS a hot dish!




Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.


tasty memories with susan taylor brown

  #18 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2011. 

Those of you familiar with Susan Taylor Brown’s poignant and heartbreaking middle grade verse novel, Hugging the Rock (Tricycle Press, 2006), know that the primary reason she wrote the book was to give herself the father she’d never known. 

Susan with her grandpa and neighbor friend, Ginny.

Just for our Potluck, Susan wrote about the special relationship she had with her grandfather — revealing, among other things, his influence on her eating habits. Carnivores will rejoice, others will think about their own grandfathers, and most everyone will be touched by this tender portrait, so lovingly crafted with telling detail.

Susan: My mother and I lived with my grandparents while I was growing up. My grandfather died when I was ten but until then, I was pretty much his shadow, right down to his eating habits. He was a big meat-eater and I was too. I was inspired to write this to go with the meat-eater recipe I wanted to share with you.

by Susan Taylor Brown

I follow Papa everywhere,
copying his walking, stomping across the wooden porch,
sliding behind him into the space beneath the house,
pushing away cobwebs and nosy spiders to hand him a monkey wrench,
standing beside him at the kitchen sink while we wash
(up to our elbows) for dinner. 

Papa eats what Papa wants.
Meat and potatoes (every meal)
with one slice of white bread, lathered thick with butter.
Vegetables (sometimes but not always)
and something sweet to finish every meal. 

My mother (and Nana too)
eat like they are never hungry.
Grapefruit for breakfast, cottage cheese for lunch,
small helpings at dinner, and sometimes, no dessert at all. 

Most of the time,
our meat comes from Mayfair Market down on Salvio Street.
Chicken. Pork Chops. A pot roast for Sundays.
But the best meat comes from Papa himself, after a day of fishing or hunting.
Catfish. Pheasant. Sometimes deer.
And my very favorite, duck, baked in the oven until the skin is cracker crisp. 

My mother (and Nana too) peel off the skin, cut the duck into tiny pieces
then say they are full after just a few bites.
I mimic Papa and pick the duck up in my hands,
gnawing it like the wild thing he claims I am
until the juice from the greasy skin dribbles down my chin.
Papa says it’s good luck to get the piece with the BBs left inside the meat
but every time, luck favors my mother most of all. 

After dinner, Nana and my mother pile dishes in the sink
then wash them all by hand, chattering like the best friends they are.
Papa grabs the evening paper and sets himself in the easy chair.
I listen to them but watch him,
waiting, waiting, waiting,
until he looks up and pats the space left on his lap,
the space that is just the right size,
for lucky me.

© 2011 Susan Taylor Brown. All rights reserved.

Such a great poem! Love the cracker crisp skin of the duck, the girl’s voice (so true and childlike), the emotional resonance, the feel good ending. Can’t you just see the child climbing atop the grandfather’s lap? So heartwarming and yet once again poignant, since Susan lost her grandfather at such a young age. It’s remarkable how much we learn about this family in the small space of this poem — personalities as well as interpersonal dynamics: I like the forthright manner in which the girl aligns herself with the grandfather she loves so much. Nothing namby pamby about it at all. And Papa eats what Papa wants. That means meat.

Susan: My husband and I learned early on in our marriage that cooking was stressful for me and relaxing for him. (And he is much, much better at it than I am.) So he is the cook in our house. He knows how much I love my red meat and over the years has tried to find healthier ways for me to feed this craving, like introducing us to buffalo. I think Papa would approve. 

Buffalo Tri-Tip in Harissa and Yogurt Marinade
(adapted from a recipe used at San Francisco’s A16 restaurant)

The original recipe used beef tri-tip, but I like it even better with buffalo. Ultra-lean buffalo meat benefits immensely from some extra flavor and moisture when cooking, and this spice-and-yogurt marinade is the perfect complement. Healthy too!

Note: You can find prepared harissa paste at various gourmet and international grocery stores; I typically use a dry mix that comes in packages of just under half an ounce.


1/2 cup harissa (if using dry harissa, microwave 1/4 cup of water until it boils, stir in the dry harissa spices, then add 1/4 cup olive oil and puree in a blender or similar until a smooth paste forms)
1/3 cup lowfat yogurt (Greek yogurt works especially well)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 piece buffalo tri-tip, roughly 1 1/2 lbs. (buffalo tri-tip can be hard to find; try asking at Whole Foods – even if it’s not on display they often have some in the back)


skewers for the grill (if using wooden skewers, soak them in water for an hour first so they don’t burn; I prefer reusable, dishwasher-friendly metal skewers, available at any kitchen store)

Cut the tri-tip across the grain into slices 1/8-1/4 inch thick. In a large, shallow bowl or dish, whisk together the harissa paste, yogurt, and salt. Add the buffalo slices and mix well until the slices are completely coated. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. You can leave it overnight if necessary, but be aware that if the marinade sits on the meat for longer than a couple of hours it will start to break down the meat’s structure – it’ll still be edible, but the texture will not be to most people’s liking. One night in the marinade you can probably get away with, after 2 nights of marinating the texture will be less like steak and more like baby food. Caveat marinator.

When you’re ready to cook, pre-heat a gas or charcoal grill. Slide the slices onto the skewers – it’s ok if the pieces get a little squished together. Ensure that the grill heat is at least medium-high. Add the meat – it will cook quickly, 2-3 minutes on the first side, then turn the skewers over and cook another 2 minutes. Slide the meat off the skewers (watch for your hands if using metal skewers, they’re hot!), and serve.

This dish works well with a simple green salad, as well as with more exotic sides like tabbouleh or raita.

Susan Taylor Brown is the author of the award-winning middle grade verse novel Hugging the Rock, the picture books Oliver’s Must-Do List and Can I Pray With My Eyes Open?, and the non-fiction books Robert Smalls Sails to Freedom and Enrique Esparza and the Battle of the Alamo. In addition, Susan has published 44 books for the educational market, including 39 ESL books for the International market. More than 200 of Susan’s articles and stories have appeared in magazines for children and adults.

A popular speaker in the schools and at writing conferences, she has served on the faculty for the Highlights Foundation Chautauqua Conference. She is also a former newspaper columnist for the New Orleans Times Picayune and past instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature. Susan has been the recipient of several grants from the Arts Council Silicon Valley, which allowed her to be Writer-in-Residence for the San Jose Alternative Schools At-Risk program and to teach poetry to incarcerated teens.

In addition to writing, Susan does motivational speaking on topics such as taking risks and having the courage to follow your dreams and leads creativity workshops for writers and readers of all ages.

She lives in San Jose, California, with her husband, Erik, her German Shepherd, Cassie, and more than 8,000 books. When she’s not writing or reading, she spends her time training Cassie for her work as a therapy dog and working in her native plant garden.

Susan has been doing the Poem-a-Day Challenge for National Poetry Month and co-hosts (with Laura Purdie Salas) the weekly online book club with poetry participation, Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic. We have it on good authority that along with her carnivorous leanings, Susan is a certified chocoholic, with Donnelly Chocolate as a special favorite. She’s the only writer I know who believes one must read while eating in order to properly digest food. Is this woman brilliant, or what? You can find her online at her official website and Live Journal blog, Susan Writes.

In honor of Susan, help yourselves to one of these (and make sure you’re reading something while eating it):

Thanks for coming to the Potluck, Susan!!

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.


through the poetic lens of jone rush macculloch

#17 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2011.

Jone shows off one of her cool photos.

I’m very happy to tell you that today we have a special feast of poems and photos courtesy of Ms. Mac herself, Jone Rush MacCulloch!

I “met” Jone through Sunday Kicks at 7-Imp, and got to know her better through her Poetry Friday posts. She initially sent me one poem for the potluck, but after I saw the lovely photos and haiku from her new book, I persuaded her to let me share several of those with you, too.

Jone: I have always written poetry and loved poetry. I am a big believer of writing down at least three observations daily. Naomi Shihab Nye calls it building up a savings account of ideas. I love short poetry forms. I like the challenge of choosing the words to create an emotion or scene in a minimal way. Haiku and the shadorma (the form of this poem) are some of my favorites.

My grandmother was left handed as am I. When I was a teen, she offered to teach me how to tat, but I was too cool for that. It is one of my regrets. Luckily, I have some of her tatting.

Sadie Rush MacCulloch’s tatting, tatting shuttle and notebook.

tatting shuttle flies
between threads
story knots about her life
I hold one to read

Copyright © 2011 Jone Rush MacCulloch. All rights reserved.

Though Jone regrets not learning to tat from her grandmother, she did inherit another part of her legacy, that of teaching. Jone’s grandmother taught well into her 80’s, and Jone has been teaching for 37 years so far.

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