[book review + giveaway] Somos como las nubes/We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta and Alfonso Ruano

“Like the clouds, like dreams, our children come and go. Nothing and no one can stop them.” ~ Jorge Argueta

Immigration is certainly one of the most contentious issues and complex humanitarian challenges facing our country today.

When you hear the word “immigrant,” what kind of mental image pops into your head? Do you picture a destitute Syrian refugee, an adult male attempting to smuggle drugs across the border, or maybe a stereotypical Spanish speaking person in a service-oriented job?

Often when I drive to the library I see a group of young Hispanic males waiting by the side of the road hoping to be picked up for a day’s labor paid for in cash. I wonder about where they came from, how they’re coping, whether their families are intact.

Though I often hear a lot about “undocumented immigrants,” the plight of “unaccompanied immigrant children” wasn’t something I seriously considered until I read Jorge Argueta’s new bilingual poetry book, Somos como las nubes/We Are Like the Clouds (Groundwood Books, 2016).

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friday feast: “The Self-Playing Instrument of Water” by Alice Oswald (+ giveaway winner)

“If I break my leg I’ll go to a doctor, if I break my heart, or if the world breaks my spirit, I will go to a poet.” (Jeanette Winterson, 2007)

Life-giving, purifying, restorative. Here’s a moment of lyrical beauty to savor, note by note.

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THE SELF-PLAYING INSTRUMENT OF WATER
by Alice Oswald

It is the story of the falling rain
To turn into a leaf and fall again

It is the secret of a summer shower
To steal the light and hide it in a flower

And every flower a tiny tributary
That from the ground flows green and momentary

Is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

If only I a passerby could pass
As clear as water through a plume of grass

To find the sunlight hidden at the tip
Turning to seed a kind of lifting raindrip

Then I might know like water how to balance
The weight of hope against the light of patience

Water which is so raw so earthy-strong
And lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

Drawn under gravity towards my tongue
To cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

Which is the story of the falling rain
That rises to the light and falls again

~ Copyright © 2013 Alice Oswald.

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I only just discovered Alice Oswald’s poetry a few months ago. I loved this poem from the opening lines — an astute observation expressed in deceptively simple terms.

In a reading she gave at Boston University two years ago, Oswald likened the water cycle — how water returns and returns — to the roll of a pianola, an instrument she loved as a child.

As water takes the path of least resistance, so her stanzas, with their absence of punctuation, naturally flow one into another, without the impediment of cliché or predictability. Upon first reading, I was so taken with her pristine diction and following her train of thought that I wasn’t aware of the rhyming couplets! I love her skillful use of slant rhyme, too.

A former gardener who read Classics at New College, Oxford, Alice now lives on the Dartington Estate in Devon with her husband and three children. She is the recipient of the TS Eliot Prize, the Ted Hughes Award, and the Foreword Prize.

In an interview with Susannah Herbert at The Guardian, she said:

To be a poet is as serious, long-term and natural as the effort to be the best human you can be. To express something well is not a question of having a top-class education and understanding poetic forms: rather, it’s a question of paying attention.

Today’s poem, retitled “A Short Story of Falling,” appears in Oswald’s 7th poetry collection, Falling Awake (W.W. Norton, 2016).

At a time when the world feels toxic and unbearable, I was grateful for this poetic cleansing.

Here’s Alice reading her poem at BU:

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 🍭HORRIBLY HUNGRY GINGERBREAD BOY GIVEAWAY WINNER! 📘

You’ll forgive me if I’m a little out of breath. Been chasing that rascally Gingerbread Boy all week. Wanted him to pick our giveaway winner. It wasn’t easy catching up with him, let me tell you. I sprinted all over San Francisco (thankfully I was able to have lunch in Chinatown to fortify myself in the process). Though the city was beautiful and I enjoyed seeing all the wonderful landmarks mentioned in the story, to my dismay the Gingerbread Boy was nowhere to be found. Sigh.

Wise Mr Cornelius suggested I contact our dear friend M. Random Integer Generator directly. He is, after all, a robust gastronome who can sniff out gingerbread an ocean away. Some of you may remember that tracking down M. Generator can sometimes be tricky in itself. Double sigh. Thankfully M. Generator answered my telegram right away. Seems the Gingerbread Boy had already devoured the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and half the Arc de Triomphe. Mon Dieu! Quelle Catastrophe!

Mais, as soon as M. Generator told the GBB we needed him to pick a winner, he flew to the Alphabet Soup kitchen in a wink. After a little snack (34 apple pies, 54 Twix bars, 4 gallons of lemonade), our favorite Gingerbread Boy reached into the cookie jar and picked a name.

The winner of a brand new copy of THE HORRIBLY HUNGRY GINGERBREAD BOY is —

*drum roll, please*

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*trumpet fanfare*

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uh-huh

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katmaz2012!

🎈HOORAY! CONGRATULATIONS!! 🎉

Thanks to everyone for entering the giveaway!

(Best to back away before the Gingerbread Boy eats you.)

Just kidding.

Hey, one of my ears is missing.

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poetry fridayThe clever and talented witty ditty darling Michelle Barnes is hosting the Roundup at Today’s Little Ditty. Be sure to sashay on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week!

 


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

friday feast: “For the Chocolate Tasters” by Diane Lockward (+ a recipe!)

“Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.” ~ Michael Levine

chocolatetruffles
Small Batch House Truffles via Chocolate Chocolate DC.

 

Please don’t wake me. I’m in the midst of a chocolate truffle dream. I’m surrounded by beautiful bonbons and it’s my job to taste them. One by one, I wrap my lips around the scrumptious hand-shaped orbs, savoring each note of exquisite flavor as they slowly melt on my tongue.

Deep Milk Pleasure with its creamy milk chocolate buttery center takes me back to the after school treats of my childhood. With the rich white chocolate of Coconut Rum Paradise I’ve washed up on the shores of Hawai’i, while the Original Dark, with its chocolate liquor and handsome dusting of Scharffen Berger cocoa, speaks of men in tuxedos waltzing in dimly lit ballrooms.🙂

With an Irish last name, I’m entitled to an Irish Cream Dream. I breathe in the heady aroma of Bailey’s Irish Cream before gently sinking my teeth into the rich Valrhona chocolate shell, my taste buds tickled by those sprinkles of coffee-infused El Ceibo. It’s like meeting Aidan Turner at the corner pub. Pure ecstasy!

Since I am serious about my chocolate, I save the best for last: Uber Dark and Decadent. Dangerous and devilish, this one is capable of bringing even veteran tasters to their knees. This is how it is with 70% cacao and sassy cinnamon– one small taste and you’re hooked. Come over to the deepest darkest dark of the dark side.🙂

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3 poems from Judith Viorst’s What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?

I’ll always remember the day I found Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day in the public library.

“Read me,” demanded a well worn copy left behind on one of the round wooden tables in the children’s room. I picked it up, read it all the way through, then sat down in a tiny chair to read it again.

I became a Viorst fan that day as I eagerly made my way through the other Alexander books. I found myself coveting train pajamas and contemplating a move to Australia. Totally nailing the child voice, Viorst (who made me very glad I didn’t have gum stuck in my hair) had a way of telling it true and assuaging frustration and calamity with just the right dose of humor. Months later, when the family across the street lost their cat, I gave them a copy of The Tenth Good Thing About Barney. Judith to the rescue again.

Her latest poetry collection, What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About? (Atheneum, 2016) is subtitled, “Poems for When a Person Needs a Poem.” Feeling a little lonely in your own skin? Or silly enough to eat a lamp for lunch? Maybe you’re fiercely jealous of too sweet, too kind, nauseatingly polite Anna May — why not bite or bop her?🙂 What do you do when your best friend doesn’t want to be your best friend any more, or your mom is just too bossy, or your head is spinning from all those reading and writing rules?

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weekend breakfast poetry buffet

“London Breakfast” by Nora Heysen

Good Morning!

Did you know that poetry is the most important meal of the day?

Spoon up a hearty bowl of metaphors, savor a sonnet, sip a warm couplet of coffee or tea.

Since man cannot live on bread alone, today we’re serving up a breakfast buffet of five poems over easy. Feel free to grab a quick nibble or graze at your leisure, whatever feeds the need over this holiday weekend. Nothing like a few choice words to tease thought, kindle fond memories, and get your motor running. Did somebody say bacon?🙂

Step right up and eat all about it.

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“Leftovers” by Mick McGinty

A LITANY OF TOAST
by Cathy Lentes

Come sit at my Grandmother’s table . . .
let your elbows rest, cool and damp,
on the scrubbed red oilcloth.

Before you a bowl of butter,
fat yellow sticks
cut and jumbled like stones,
honey clinging to comb,
jam and jelly
sealed in paraffin tombs.

A clatter of spoons,
the dance of grease on an iron pan,
the tender crack and sizzle as
morning splits open again.
Her hands blessing the stove,
she murmurs, mindful of toast.

Now, on a plate, heavy and broad,
steaming eggs like sunshine,
thick planks of bacon,
bread, crisp and golden,
butter spread crust to crust.
Eat, she says, eat.

Feed on her gospel before you.

~ from O Taste and See: Food Poems, edited by David Lee Garrison and Terry Hermsen (Bottom Dog Press, 2003).

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BREAKFAST
by Merrill Leffler

This morning I’ll skip the bacon
and eggs and have a poem over light —
two or three if you don’t mind.
I feel my appetite coming on.
And even a stack of flapjacks
which I love — with butter
and boysenberry jam spreading
their fingers of sweetness over
the ragged edges — won’t do me now.
When this hunger’s on, only a poem
will do, one that will surprise my need
like a stranger knocking
at the door (a small knock — at first,
I hardly hear it) to ask directions,
it turns out, to this house. He’s looking
for me. Who are you I ask? Your brother
he says, the one you never knew you had
or the one who you’ve been trying to remember
all your life but somehow couldn’t recall
until now, when he arrives.
And there he is
before me smiling, holding out his arms
— and all this by chance. Do you
believe it?
So serve me up a poem friend,
but just go easy on the tropes,
for instance, synecdoche and such. A simile
or two is fine and metaphor’s all right.
A rhyming quatrain, maybe on the side
would be ok, but not too much —
they sometimes give me gas.
God I love a breakfast such as this.
It gives me a running start and keeps me going
through to dark when I’m as hungry as a horse.
But that’s another poem. Let’s eat.

~ from The Poet’s Cookbook: Recipes from Germany, edited by Grace Cavalieri and Sabine Pascarelli (Forest Woods Media Productions, Inc., 2010)

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“Cracked Egg” by Vic Vicini

THE LIFE OF MAN
by Russell Edson

For breakfast a man must break an egg. Then not all the
king’s horses and all the king’s men can do very much about it.

Past perfect the broken egg no longer breaks, a dead man no
longer dies…

And as he spills the broken egg into a frying pan he murmurs,
Ah, well, too bad about Humpty Dumpty…

~ from See Jack by Russell Edson (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009)

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RENDERING
by Seth Bockley

I savored every Saturday
when she rendered
up to the gods what was theirs
(a burnt offering:
crisp edged plank of glistening
smoked pork in its glory).
at five, I marveled at the marbled
slab of sizzle–
standing on a chair, my eyes watering,
as before me a transubstantiation occurred:
bacon became Bacon, my mouth gaped adrool–
and still that sizzle echoes
through time’s larders
and the years’ open windows,
her gingham curtains wafting
as fat is forever rendered
into memory and hickory-smoke

~ finalist, 2011 Baconfest Chicago Poetry Contest, Copyright © 2011 Seth Bockley

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“Cup of Joe” by Mick McGinty

IMAGINARY CONVERSATION
by Linda Pastan

You tell me to live each day
as if it were my last. This is in the kitchen
where before coffee I complain
of the day ahead—that obstacle race
of minutes and hours,
grocery stores and doctors.

But why the last? I ask. Why not
live each day as if it were the first—
all raw astonishment, Eve rubbing
her eyes awake that first morning,
the sun coming up
like an ingénue in the east?

You grind the coffee
with the small roar of a mind
trying to clear itself. I set
the table, glance out the window
where dew has baptized every
living surface.

~ from Insomnia by Linda Pastan (W.W. Norton, 2015).

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I love entering the worlds of these poems, hearing the voices. It’s like having interesting company at the breakfast table, isn’t it?🙂

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poetry fridayThe eminently talented Julie Larios is hosting today’s Poetry Friday Roundup at The Drift Record. After you’ve had your second cup of coffee, scamper over and peruse the full menu of poetic goodies being shared in the blogosphere this week. Have a great holiday weekend!


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.