a pair of pandemic poems

Last November when I shared Pablo Neruda’s “Keeping Quiet,” I didn’t realize that a couple of weeks later, a new anthology would be released titled after lines from the same poem.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020), is pure manna for the heart and soul, just when we need it most.

Last spring, while we were all frantically washing our hands, stressing over toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, and adjusting to lockdown restrictions, Ms. Quinn “reached out to poets across the country to see if, and what, they were writing under quarantine.” She was so moved by the response that she began collecting and curating the poems arriving in her inbox.

“Front Line Hero” by Olga Gouralnik (2020)

These poets voiced our collective shock, grief, fears, and hopes — an array of layered emotions many of us did not yet have a language for. From their unique, diverse perspectives, they were able to paint an intimate portrait of a world woefully attuned to this exotic moment in history.

Strange, to experience what could never have been imagined, to step into an altered reality.

Sudden, to have life, livelihood, routines, priorities upended in the blink of an eye.

The 107 poets featured in this anthology vary by age, gender, and sexuality, and employ different styles and poetic forms to unmask human fragility, vulnerability and resilience in trying times. Some of the poems were quite cathartic, moving me to tears.

Here are two that really spoke to me. The first describes precisely how I made it through the past year, and the second reinforces my gratitude for the power of poetry to heal, sustain, and connect.

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[review + recipe] eat this poem by nicole gulotta

“Both the cook and the poet are makers. One holds a knife, the other a pen. One grinds fresh pepper over a mound of tender lettuce, while the other adds a period to the end of a sentence or a dash to the end of a line. With available ingredients — vegetables and herbs, rhymes and words — layers of flavor and meaning are infused in the pan and composed on the page.” ~ Nicole Gulotta (Eat This Poem, 2017)

Some of you may remember when Nicole Gulotta wrote a guest post for Alphabet Soup several years ago featuring an Apple Crumb Muffin recipe inspired by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s poem “Apple Pockets.”

As a longtime fan of Nicole’s literary food blog, Eat This Poem, I was happy to see her first book come out earlier this year. This summer I finally had a nice chunk of time to give it a careful reading, savoring each word, each poem, each recipe.

Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry (Roost Books, 2017) features 75+ new recipes paired with poems by 25 of America’s most beloved poets (Billy Collins, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mark Strand, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry). Just as she does at her blog, Nicole includes thoughtful commentary on each poem, followed by personal stories about the recipes.

All are presented thematically in five sections: On What Lingers, On Moments in Time, On Growth, On Gathering, and On Splendor. Recipe categories include Breakfasts, Salads, Soups, Snacks and Small Bites, Meat and Seafood, Vegetables/Vegetarian, Desserts and Drinks.

Enjoy Diane Lockward’s “Blueberry,” then read about Nicole’s Christmas morning family tradition of opening stockings by the fireplace while eating muffins (she then tempts us with a recipe for Blueberry Bran Muffins).

Contemplate Joy Harjo’s “Perhaps the World Ends Here” (one of the first food poems I ever shared at Alphabet Soup back in 2007), and then read about how Nicole’s great-grandmother used to slather a chicken in fresh oregano before roasting it for family dinners. Nicole’s recipe for Oregano Roast Chicken had me drooling (imagine the aroma of olive oil and savory spices wafting through your kitchen on a Sunday afternoon).

Do you know Sharon Olds’s bittersweet poem “First Thanksgiving” — about a mother anticipating her daughter’s return home after her first few months away at college? Nicole offers a recipe for Wild Rice with Chestnuts and Leeks, inspired by a semester abroad in London. In December, she took walks around the city the last week she was there to take it all in before returning home. She chanced upon a stall selling hot roasted chestnuts and tasted them for the first time, a wonderful moment that became an indelible memory.

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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Is it lunch yet? “Let’s taco bout how cute this lunch tote is.” Yep, cute cute cute. I wonder, do you have to be a kid to actually use this thing? 🙂

Well, let me just say that if I did take my lunch to work every day, I wouldn’t hesitate for one second. Of course, this makes an adorable gift for the munchkin(s) in your life. I’m sure it would make anything you pack extra yummy. The tote is insulated and hard-walled on the inside to keep edibles fresh and protected. Available now for pre-order from the Foodiggity shop, ships April 14.

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2. Heads up, poets! Terrapin Books is now accepting submissions for a new Donut Anthology to be published this Fall! Yes, I said DONUTS.

Guidelines:

We will consider up to five published or unpublished poems about any kind of donut, e.g., jelly donut, sugar, powdered, glazed, Boston cream, donut holes, cruller, long john, fritter, pączki, oliebollen, ponchik, fánk. 

Send us your poems about making donuts, eating donuts, donuts and family rituals or traditions, your love or fear of donuts, your first donut, a memory associated with donuts, cops and donuts, a fight over donuts, a dream or a nightmare about donuts.

We will consider previously published poems provided the author is able to grant permission for Terrapin Books to republish the poems. 

I imagine if you plan to write about donuts, you’ll need to eat one, three, or fifty-five for optimum inspiration. 🙂 Deadline for submissions is May 31, 2017. Visit the TB site for all the lipsmacking details. What are you waiting for?

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friday feast: Never Take a Pig to Lunch by Nadine Bernard Westcott

Oinkety oink oink!

I’m in hog heaven over Nadine Bernard Westcott’s Never Take a Pig to Lunch: And Other Poems About the Fun of Eating (Orchard Books, 1994)my new all-time favorite anthology of food poetry for children.

How in the world did I miss this one before? Living under a big rock comes to mind. No, wait. There weren’t any blogs when it first came out in 1994 and I was only 3 years old. Yes, yes, that must be it. 🙂

But surely ONE of you could have told me about it by now? Ahem!

I just happened to see this book at the library, and after devouring every single page, loved it SO MUCH I had to purchase my own copy. Yes, it’s that good!

There are about 60 poems here — funny, silly, wacky, whimsical, clever, lip-smackingly delicious, totally delightful verses in a nice variety of forms by some of our finest poets and humorists: Ogden Nash, Jack Prelutsky, Florence Parry Heide, Eve Merriam, Mary Ann Hoberman, Steven Kroll, Myra Cohn Livingston, Lilian Moore, X.J. Kennedy, David McCord, Arnold Adoff, Richard Armour, et. al. Even Miss Piggy makes an appearance!

This scrumptious smorgasbord is served up in four uber kid-friendly courses: Poems About Eating Silly Things, Poems About Foods We Like, Poems About Eating Too Much, and Poems About Manners at the Table. For silly things, wrap your lips around a fat juicy worm, a slithery slug, a sliver of icky liver, or a chicken-y rattlesnake. There are also three generous servings of eels, in case you’re into that sort of thing:

I don’t mind eels
Except as meals.
And the way they feels.

~ Ogden Nash

Oh, the writhing! I’ll take mine jellied, please.

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