[review + giveaway] For Every Little Thing: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day

“Everything in nature is a wonderful miracle!/Isn’t the little bird flying through the big sky a miracle?” ~ Amma

Walk barefoot in the sand and curl your toes in the water. Listen to the “winging, singing, whispery sounds” of earth’s creatures. Marvel at a ballet of butterflies, a sky full of stars. Feel the cool air after a fresh rain.

For Every Little Thing: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day (Eerdmans BFYR, 2021), is a joyous love letter to the world and all we hold dear within it, truly a wonderful way to acknowledge nature’s vast bounty of gifts as well as the friends and family who sustain us.

With about 70 child friendly selections carefully curated by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling, this beautifully illustrated inspirational anthology features 51 diverse voices affirming the spiritual rewards of being present and expressing gratitude for wonders large and small.

Young readers are treated to untold delights from morning to night — ordinary moments throughout the day that happily and surprisingly warrant celebration. 

How marvelous to wake up with sloppy puppy kisses, greet the sun that’s bouncing on the bedroom wall like a yellow beach ball, and feel God’s presence everywhere, especially within ourselves. It’s empowering to know that as we experience the world through our own personal lenses, we’re validating our place in it.

MY BEAUTIFUL DAY
by Marion Schoeberlein

I borrowed a poem from the sky,
and music from a bird,
I stole a chime out of the wind,
and from the rose a word,
I borrowed a song from the hills,
a psalm from the silver rain,
I took the footsteps of angels
out of a cobbled lane,
from each little thing I fashioned
something in my own way,
with God's help I put in my heart
a wonderful, beautiful day!

Simple, accessible language and an abundance of sensory details engage readers throughout the book, encouraging them to slow down, look closer, savor, and appreciate. Whether a charming two-line snippet of wisdom or a lyrical five stanza blessing, there’s a welcome positivity and reassurance in the soul nourishing words.

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[crunchy review] Hard-Boiled Bugs for Breakfast by Jack Prelutsky

Hungry? May I interest you in a few angry carrots, a slice of sunlight cake, maybe a cherry pie baked by a butterfly or a dish of red-hot ice cream?

Inaugural Young People’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky serves up all these tantalizing treats and more in his latest anthology, Hard-Boiled Bugs For Breakfast: And Other Tasty Poems (Greenwillow, 2021).

To whet your appetite, wrap your lips around the title poem:

Hard-Boiled Bugs for Breakfast

Hard-boiled bugs for breakfast,
Hard-boiled bugs for lunch,
Hard-boiled bugs at suppertime,
Crunchy! Crunchy! Crunch!

Hard-boiled bugs are tastier
Than spiders, flies, or slugs.
There’s not a doubt about it --
I love those hard-boiled bugs.

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Pretty tasty as long as you don’t get bug legs stuck in your teeth. 😀

Whether you’re a seasoned Prelutsky fan or a curious nibbler with an uncanny appetite for riotous rhymes, inventive wordplay, and preposterously punny poems, this chewy collection of over 100 verses is for you. 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all about food. Though there’s a respectable smorgasbord of kooky cuisine, kids will find oodles of other subjects infused with Prelutsky’s signature whackadoodle humor to get them giggling and nodding their heads in recognition — poems about faking illness to skip school, lamenting homework, growing light bulbs in a garden, being allergic to your pets, being forgetful or a chronic complainer, even cautionary quips about squeezing electric eels or being carried away by giant bubble gum (there’s a giant Easter Bunny too). 

Animals, real and imaginary, also get their fair share of the spotlight. Consider a lizard who can play the mandolin, an inch-tall, pink-tinted purple-dotted elephant who can tie her trunk in knots and play the violin with her tail, a giraffe that gives voice lessons, or a horse that floats in the air. Who wouldn’t love to have any of these pets? 

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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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