rebecca kai dotlich: heart, sky, stars

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

During the Christmas holidays every year, Rebecca Kai Dotlich makes sugar cookies with her grandchildren. I love this photo of her with three-year-old Mia. I wonder what they’re talking about as they coax all that butter into submission?

For Mia, this is a relatively new family tradition, but for Rebecca, it’s a beautiful extension of what she did for years with her own two children. (“I am no cook — it is laughable —  but I am a mighty fine baker of homemade cut-out sugar cookies.”) All the gold in the world couldn’t buy or replace those precious memories of a warm kitchen, comfy aprons, wooden spoons and rolling pins, clouds of flour dusting counter and nose, the tap-splat of sweet creamery butter, and the sweet avalanche of sugar as it spills out of a measuring cup.

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amy ludwig vanderwater: little birds, a grandma and THAT CAKE

#15 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2011


Hello my little chickies!

Just in time for Easter weekend, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and her three children have brought some eggs to our poetry feast! They just happen to live at Heart Rock Farm, set on a sprawling 24 acres up in Holland, New York, where they cavort with Icelandic sheep, rabbits, cats, a dog, and of course, chickens.

L to R: Hope, Amy, Georgia and Henry VanDerwater with eggs used in today’s recipe.

In this season of growth and renewal, it’s good to celebrate life, ponder its mysteries, cherish its fleeting moments, and hold our loved ones close. Amy enjoys growing meaningful words and thoughts at her Poem Farm, cultivating the seeds of promising ideas, nurturing them as they blossom into words, and then sending them off into the big wide world. Whether you’re hatching a brand new idea or gazing upon the faces of your biological offspring with wonder and awe, there’s no better way to sing of these sweet miracles than with a poem.

Amy: I wrote this poem in 2000, the year our third child, Henry, was born. That same year, Mark’s paternal grandmother died. Grandma’s recipe for “Pineapple Slices” carries on, as do so many memories of her strength and goodness. Watching Hope, Georgia, and Henry grow up, I realize how quickly this cycle circles ’round, how swift is the time between egg and mother bird.

by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

you’ll be
grown up birds.
You’ll fly
to far-off places.
And I will keep
this memory
of your tiny
feathered faces.

you’ll be
grown up birds.
You’ll do
grown up bird things.
And I will keep
this place for you
right here
beneath my wings.

© 2000 Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. All rights reserved.

So lovely! And there’s nothing I love more than hearing about a family recipe that’s flavored with fond memories and becomes a precious legacy for succeeding generations. Amy wrote about Grandma VanDerwater’s famous Pineapple Slices (or “cake”) in this funny, charming essay/commentary  for WBFO/National Public Radio. Seems when she was dating her husband-to-be, Mark, she learned “the cake” would undeniably figure in their future together.

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tracie vaughn zimmer’s poetic pachyderms

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

Take off your berets and put on your party hats!

It’s Tracie Vaughn Zimmer’s birthday! 

Len brought me these elephants from Kenya.

What is it about April? So many cool poets have birthdays this month. Yesterday was April Halprin Wayland’s birthday, and Kelly Fineman’s was on the First. They all just happen to be in very good company: Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Gary Soto, Seamus Heaney, Lee Bennett Hopkins. And while we’re celebrating notable events, let’s tip our hats to Tracie for the recent release of Cousins of Clouds: Elephant Poems (Clarion, 2011), which is absolutely gorgeous!

Like Tracie, I love elephants. Her poems examine their enormous size, affectionate parenting, loyalty to one another, complex relationship with humans, anatomy, voracious appetite, place in art and history, and are paired with fascinating sidebars. The poems vary in form (free verse, cinquain, sonnet, haiku, letter poems) as well as sentiment, and will definitely make you appreciate elephants in a whole new way.

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dining out with marilyn singer

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

Marilyn at her home in Connecticut.

I’m thrilled to be rolling out the green carpet today to welcome the one and only Marilyn Singer, winner of the 2010 Cybils Poetry Award for her ingenious and innovative book, Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse (Dutton, 2010)!

Some of you may be familiar with one of Marilyn’s older titles, Footprints on the Roof: Poems About the Earth (Knopf, 2002), in which she celebrates the beauty, power, joy and wonder of our terrestrial home. An avid nature lover, she embraces phenomena both large and little with a keen eye, unending curiosity and an open heart.

“Dining Out” is the perfect contribution to our poetry feast. I love the ingenuous gratitude expressed in this delightful paean to biodiversity, the cycle of life, and global interdependency. The open ended free verse form gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect, as we taste each word and savor its meaning. Love the feeling of personal connection, harmony and wholeness.

Marilyn: I remember thinking about how little attention we pay to where our food and drink come from and how joyful it feels when we realize that, yes, we are eating and drinking the earth.


by Marilyn Singer


Each day I eat the earth 

          I drink the rain 

They taste celery-bitter 


Their flavor 



          is stored 

in every grain of rice         

          in every stalk of wheat 

in every root 



harvested in Chile 

          or in China 

                    or at Fanelli’s farm 

Each day I eat the earth 

          I drink the rain 

And my tongue

            is never bored

© 2002 Marilyn Singer. All rights reserved.


To enhance the nourishment afforded by her poem, Marilyn invites us to share her love for good food, prepared simply. Many of us already frequent our local farm markets, enjoy growing our own fruits and vegetables, and/or advocate Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). It does make a difference when we know where our food comes from — there’s nothing more delicious, nutritious and satisfying than fresh, seasonal produce, and when it comes to salads, the possibilities are endless.

A recent lunch included mesclun, romaine, pepper jack cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, cippolini onions, and avocado. Yum!

Marilyn: I like visiting farms and seeing fruits and vegetables growing. I don’t eat things with feet, but I do eat plenty of the things THEY eat. Here’s one of my favorite lunches:

In a bowl, put a serving of mesclun or a mixture of lettuce (romaine or Boston), radicchio, and endive. Add canned fish (which don’t have feet) such as tuna, mackerel or trout in olive oil. Then mix in whatever in the pantry takes your fancy—canned mandarin oranges, canned artichoke hearts, pickled onions, olives, avocado slices, dried cranberries or cherries, or slices of fresh apple, mango, or other fruit. I don’t add dressing—the oil in the fish is enough—but you could squeeze some lemon juice over the salad.

Some good bread and a cup of tea on the side, and voila—a delicious, healthy, and earthy meal!

Award-winning author and poet Marilyn Singer writes picture books, short stories, fairy tales, fantasies, realistic novels for children and young adults, nonfiction, and mysteries, but enjoys writing poetry most of all. She’s published about 90 books, including 20 poetry collections, which have received such accolades as the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Honor Award (Creature Carnival), ALSC Notable Book (Central Heating), and NCTE Notable Book (Turtle in July). Besides the 2010 Cybils Award, Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse, has been showered with a boatload of other honors: Horn Book Fanfare List, NYPL Best 100 Children’s Books, Booklist Editor’s Choice, Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of 2010, and Washington Post Top 15 Children’s Books of 2010, among others.

Born in the Bronx, Marilyn currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, and Washington, Connecticut, with her husband Steve and lots of animals: their standard poodle, a cat, two collared doves, and a starling named Darling. She enjoys ballroom/Latin dancing, dog training, reading, hiking, bird-watching, gardening, playing computer adventure games, and going to the movies and the theatre. She’s also a major Star Trek fan.

Recent books: Tallulah’s Tutu (Clarion, 2011), Twosomes: Love Poems from the Animal Kingdom (Knopf, 2010).

Coming Soon: What is Your Dog Doing? (Atheneum, June 2011), A Full Moon is Rising (Lee & Low, May 2011).

Marilyn also co-hosts Poetry Blasts at various conferences with Barbara Benco. Her official website is here.

♥ I highly recommend this Reading Rockets video interview, because Marilyn discusses her early influences, offers suggestions about how to share poetry in the classroom, and reads several poems from Mirror Mirror. Great way to celebrate National Poetry Month!

♥ Check out this post at The Miss Rumphius Effect, where Marilyn talks about Footprints on the Roof.

♥ Marilyn’s poem, “A Stick is an Excellent Thing,” was recently featured as part of GottaBook’s 30 Poets/30 Days this month.


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

raisin’ some good wishes for april halprin wayland

April Halprin Wayland, our very first Potluck Poet this month, always writes "Happy Birthday" in raisins to members of her family. We think this is the coolest idea and wanted to send our very own greetings. ☺

In case you missed her delicious poem and recipe, click here. Mmmm, Lemon Waffles.

And don’t forget she’s doing the Poem-a-Day Challenge and is posting a new poem and the story behind the poem each day at her website. Go over there and nibble on a few words.


♥ Check out all the 2011 Poetry Potluck posts here.

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