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.

7 cool things on a monday

“Seven days without laughter makes one weak.” ~ Mort Walker

Copyright © 2014 Margie Moore

1. Big thanks to children’s book illustrator Margie Moore for allowing me to showcase her adorable “Mouse’s Kitchen” in my blog header this month. Since I had to crop some of the illo to fit the header space, thought I’d post the original so you can see some of the details at the bottom. Margie says she did this watercolor for Babybug Magazine. FYI, Margie is CakeSpy Jessie Oleson Moore’s mother. Sweets and awesome talent run in the family!:)

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2. Heads up, Poets: Richer Resources Publications is seeking poems about food and eating for a new anthology to be published in 2015. You can submit up to 3 original poems (simultaneous and previously published okay). Deadline: November 1, 2014. More here.

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3. Have you heard about the brand new BookDragon Book Club? It’s presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and hosted by Terry Hong and HapaMama’s Grace Hwang Lynch, who invite you to join them each month for tasty reads by notable Asian Pacific American authors. They will announce a new book the first Tuesday of each month and then hold a live virtual conversation with the author on the last Tuesday. In between, they will post reviews, guest posts, resources, etc., with lots of chances for discussion and interaction.

Their inaugural title is Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh (Beth) Nguyen. It’s been getting rave reviews and Terry Hong says it’s one of her top 3 favorites for 2014 thus far. It sounds intriguing — a connection between Laura Ingalls Wilder and Vietnam? Click here to learn more about the club and watch Beth’s welcome video.

The live virtual chat with Beth (and with fellow readers, bloggers, etc.) will be held tomorrow (Tuesday, August 26) at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST.

4. Speaking of Laura Ingalls Wilder, novelist and biographer Pamela Smith Hill will be teaching a free online course via Missouri State University that runs from September 22 to December 1, 2014. Laura Ingalls Wilder: Exploring Her Work & Writing Life, “will expand your understanding of the literary themes, style, and historical underpinnings of Wilder’s Little House series.” Click here for full course description and enrollment information.

 

Some of you may know that Pamela Smith Hill is also the editor of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography (South Dakota State Historical Society, 2014), the much anticipated previously unpublished autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, to be released on November 20, 2014. Learn more about this exciting book at The Pioneer Girl Project site.

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5. If you’re a fan of haiku and haibun, check out Penny Harter’s guest post, “Circling the Pine: Haibun and the Spiral Image” at The Music In It: Adele Kenny’s Poetry Blog. We’ve had the pleasure of featuring the work of both of these fabulous poets here at Alphabet Soup, and are pleased to mention their new books:

Penny’s The Resonance Around Us (Mountains & Rivers Press, 2013), just came out last Fall, and Adele’s new book, A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing At All (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2014) will be out in December, and is now available for pre-order.

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6. Because of my interest in the handmade and heart-made, and because the spoon is my favorite utensil, I find Josh Nava’s 365 Spoons project very cool. This Nashville woodworker is hand carving a spoon from local wood every day in 2014. You can follow Josh’s progress on Instagram. Here’s a short video showing him at work:

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7. Last, but certainly not least, in case you missed this short film about Maira Kalman from Gael Towey’s wonderful “Portraits in Creativity” series, I’m sharing it here. I love that Maira thinks everyone is “deeply eccentric,” and that she’s playing a duck in Isaac Mizrahi’s production of “Peter and The Wolf.”

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Happy Monday, All!

I hope at least 7 good things happen to you this week — that you write 7 good words, share 7 kind words with others, and reflect on 7 things you’re thankful for.:)

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Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

 

friday feast: adele kenny’s chosen ghosts

#11 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2012.

Adele with her Yorkshire Terrier, Chaucer.

There’s nothing I love more than having a new-to-me poet like Gail Gerwin knock on my virtual kitchen door with a delicious poem in hand and then have that gift lead to even more deliciousness.

After “meeting” Gail and swooning over the poem sequence she’d written about her mother Cele’s cooking, I asked if she knew of any other poets who might like to join our Potluck. She suggested Sondra Gast (who’ll be here next week) and today’s lovely guest, Adele Kenny.

Adele's paternal grandparents, c. 1920 (William J. Kenny and Anna Brooks Bates Kenny)

Adele is truly a poet’s poet; her first poems date back to childhood (wonderful samples here), and just by reading today’s excerpt you’ll get a good sense of the exquisite craftsmanship she employs in her writing. I love the layers of emotion, her textured, sensual imagery, crisp diction, and haunting lyricism.

Such a rare treat to have Adele share this ancestral communion with us, as well as the wonderful family photos and recipe. A genealogy buff, Adele’s been able to trace her family back to 1600 in Staffordshire! With my love of England and Irish American relatives, it’s safe to say Adele is a kindred spirit. ☺

Adele: The following poem is an updated excerpt from the title poem of my book Chosen Ghosts (Muse-Pie Press, 2001).  I worked on the first version of this poem while I was “gathering history” in a genealogical study of my Irish and English ancestors, and this poem tells how welcome those “ghosts” are in my life. Sharing this poem, a family recipe, and a bit about their backstories is a special kind of  “life writing.”

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