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Friday, April 29, 2011

4 Courses Dazzles & Shines

It was an evening for the books.

Jennifer Borgess Foster, matronmind of this awe-inspiring event, toiled endless hours coordinating with Tom Douglas and his crew and 5 Five Pie to create a menu that included crisp apple with bacon bites, arugula salad, triticale with asparagus tarts, and three kinds of pie. Meanwhile, Oyster Bill was busy donating dozens of fresh, raw bivalves for the first course. There were also many volunteers buzzing around the hive of volunteer-coordinator Sara Brickman, many of whom woke at dawn Thursday morning to help prepare for the big event. Dave Mecklenburg shucked oysters, along with Bill and Lang, while a whole host of hosts and hostesses, and one fantastic bartender, scurried around to help with the serving and pouring.

I knew this event would be fun and delicious, but I had no idea just how dazzling a Richard Hugo House "do" could be. The cabaret space had been transformed into an upscale dining situation. We could have been at Spinasse! And the food was as good as, well, what you'd dive into at the Dahlia Lounge.


As if this was not enough, the delightful Jennifer Borges Foster emceed the event to perfection, her giant rhinestone hoops jangling as she encouraged us to go get our second "flight" of wine and raise our glasses yet again.

And then the reading amongst and amidst!

Lang Cook read a piece about oysters. It was delightful.
I read about apples, pork products, cabbage, and gravy.
Kevin Craft read of breaking bread and of salad days. Pure genius.
And Kate Lebo, in transplendent chiffon purple polkadots, rounded out the eve with tales of pie from pumpkin to rhubarb custard.

All of it dedicated to the life of Kim Ricketts, book sojourner extraordinaire and foodie-maven who left this world way too soon.

Thanks so much to all who contributed to making this an unforgettable event.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

4 Courses at Richard Hugo House: April 27, 6:30 PM

Drum roll!!! The 4 Courses reading at Richard Hugo House is less than 24 hours away, and the clock is ticking! Miraculously, this reading by local Seattle writers Langdon Cook, Kevin Craft, Kate Lebo, and yours truly is not yet sold out. For $15, you get to hear four great readers between bites of:

Butterscotch Bacon Bites with Crisp Apple
Spring Vegetable Succotash Toast
Marinated Beet Salad
Asparagus Leek Tart
Triticale Berry Risotto
Tom's Triple Coconut Cream Pie

Prior to these yummy delights, forager/author Langdon Cook will be shucking oysters while he reads a chapter from his delightful book, Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager, just out in paperback.

Next it will be my turn to turn on the burner and let the simmering begin. Poems about apples, sausages, kapusta, artichokes, and gravy will abound.

Following more grazing, Poetry Northwest editor Kevin Craft will step up to the podium to share a delicious array of kick-a food-lovin' melodies.

Kate Lebo will round out the night with her beautiful, pie-ful poesy.

Food & Words: what could be better? And not just any food and words, but some of the best of both around.

If you want to eat well and give your ears a treat, make sure to be there!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tulip Festivals, Gender Roles, & Child Labor

Okay, call me a fool. At noon on the sunniest, warmest day of the year, I decided to take the kids up north to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This has become a yearly pilgrimage for my daughter and I--we look forward to it all year. I usually spring her from school midweek, and we enjoy the farm scenery and walk through the fields reveling in the purples, mauves, and pinks in relative calm.

This was not be the case on Saturday. We merged onto I-5 at 12:30 PM. 3 hours later, we exited onto Old Highway 99, just south of Mount Vernon. When we got to town, it was bumper to bumper traffic along the tulip route. Another hour, and we still were not in any way, shape or form tiptoeing through the tulips. As we stopped and started along a stretch of backroad, I let them out of the car to kick around in the plowed dirt and marvel over a ditch that my son immediately begged me to let him cross to the other side of. I consented. They ran along the cars until I realized it was potentially fatal (motorcycles zipping in and out of lanes). It was 63 degrees, but because it's been in the 30s/40s most of the month, it felt like a heatwave. Finally, I consulted a map and took a sharp left off the car-glutted road and hightailed it to a field with just two colors of tulips: red and purple. My daughter was a little let down (last year we went to a field that contained six or more varieties!), but at least we were out of the car.

My son reluctantly walked a little way, allowed me to snap a few photos of him, but when we got to the second field (this one was all red and yellow), he told me that boys don't walk in tulip fields, that if we had taken his best friend along, he wouldn't have wanted to hang out with him again for at least a month (why a month? did it take a month for the tulip shame and embarrassment to wear off?). Meanwhile, my daughter couldn't get enough of the sumptuous blooms; she cried when I told her we weren't going to Tulip Town because there wasn't a single parking spot, which anyway costs $5 and it's only open another hour.

A day ago my son begged me to polish his nails. Last night he was hugging his best friend, crying with him when it was time for the play date to end.

Now he is telling me boys don't walk among beautiful living things with big floppy red petals and the blackest of inner secrets.

I felt achy and couldn't shake a headache. I got a head rush if I moved too suddenly. I had spent four hours in a car to walk in a couple of tulip fields for less than an hour.

We got back in the car to join the long line of traffic back to Seattle. I rationalized that I hardly eat meat anymore, so what was a few wasted gallons of gasoline, but my cavalier attitude probably had more to do with carbon monoxide poisoning.

The only thing that was going to heal my pain was, of course, Dairy Delite. But to get to Dairy Delite we were going to have to head north on I-5 again. No way!

You guessed it: fries and sundaes/shakes for dinner at the evilest of evil: Dairy Queen. I felt so much better after, which is sick because I know that children pick those tomatoes that go into Heinz ketchup.

It is sinister.

And now it's raining again, so I know quite definitively that Saturday really was the one day to see the tulips.

Was it worth it? Yes, it was.

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's Earth Day 2011

and I am sitting here thinking about some things we can all do to best celebrate this day where we show we care about about our planet and the people who live on it:

1. If you have a yard, plant a vegetable garden. It doesn't have to be an elaborate deal, just a little patch of dirt in a semi-sunny spot. Dig up the earth, add a little compost, and rake it nice and smooth. Then make a few rows and toss in some seeds. If you live here in the Pacific Northwest, greens are your best bet, because they germinate at low temps. Mustard, for instance, germinates at 45 degrees, so you don't have to build a cold frame to see those little seedlings popping up in a week or so. Kale and lettuces are also a good bet. If there's a child around, have them help you. As you're planting, talk about what you're doing and why. Oh, and if you don't have a yard, find out about where you can rent space in a community garden, if your city is lucky enough to have such a program.

2. Buy some food from a local farmer. Here in my neck of the woods, Columbia City Farmer's Market opened this week. I also attended a Farmer's Market on the Bellevue College campus as part of their Earth Week extravaganza. Full Circle Farms had a stall, and I bought some nice rapini, spinach, and baby carrots still on their stalks. $2.50 for six little carrots might seem like a lot of dough when you can get a burger for $1 at McDonald's, but I munched a couple while sitting at a picnic table with a former student, and they tasted like candy, but were satisfying and delicious. The spinach went into a barbecued tempeh burrito lunch I put together in 5 minutes when I got home. The rapini will be made into a decadent pasta dish with lots of garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese, also a very quick meal (takes about as long to make as it does to boil a pot of water).

3. Do some research on composting your food waste. Here in Seattle we are supremely lucky to be partnered with a compost-making company, Cedar Grove Compost. Each week they pick up all of our food scraps along with our yard waste, and turn it into rich loam they sell all over the state, including at Lowe's. I know I could be composting with a worm bin in my yard, and I am planning to do that one of these days, but in the meantime our garbage consists only of a small amount of unrecyclable plastic, the occasional styrofoam insert from a package, and really not much else.

4. Find out about where your food comes from. Not just how the animals are being raised and slaughtered, what they are being fed, but about the people who are planting and harvesting your food. A good place to start is here, with Bon Appetit Management Company's just-released Farm Worker Inventory. Find out what farm laborers such as those who belong to the Coalition of Immokolee Workers are doing to fight against conditions that force laborers to pick at 32 lb. bin of tomatoes for a wage of 45 cents, which is standard practice. [To earn a minimum wage, workers must pick 2.4 tons of tomatoes in a 10-hour day. 2.4 tons! And this is all done without mechanization; they are carrying these crates all day long in the Florida heat and humidity.]

5. Skip the burgers and bacon on April 22. Why? Because farm-raised animals are the single highest contributor to greenhouse gases on this planet. 18% of greenhouse gases are attributed to cattle farts, which are heavy on the methane, likely because they are eating a food (corn) they were not designed to eat.

Okay, that's just a small start, but even doing one of these things can help sustain the Earth, along with the people who live on it.

It's in our power. It's in our hands.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Falling Out of the Blogosphere

or something like that, as I aim to write a NoPoMo poem a day (though sometimes it's every other day . . . ), and learning a lot about the benefits of being a more-or-less daily poet instead of a sporadic once-a-week-or-so poet.

When I started the one a day thing I was away at a writer's colony, so of course it was a cinch. Then I got home, went back to work, and the energy sort of left the wine (to quote Robert Bly in "The Man in the Black Coat Turns").

It was time to dig down deep. And deeper. To recap, I started bringing my notebook to the playground, just like back in the day when I had babies and they napped in the stroller while I wrote! It's harder to do now, though, cuz they want me to take my turn on the monkey bars, which how can I say no to that? I mean, how many 50-year old moms do you know who can make it all the way across, swinging like a lemur?

Okay, but I managed to write two poems that way. Not while swinging. Not quite that agile yet. But before and after swinging.

And then I came up with an even better idea: leaving for work a little early (okay, quite earlier, as in, before the sun rises), pulling into the #1 parking spot (yep, it's always there if you get up early enough), and writing for 30 minutes before I grab hold of the briefcase and head for the door.

Oh, man, what a sweet way to start the day, though in truth I only go to work in an actual office two days a week, so the rest of the time it's me against the laundry, the laptop, and the little ones (though they're the least bothersome now that they spend 6 hours a day in school).

Okay, one other suggestion for getting the daily poem knocked out: arrive 15 minutes early to pick up your son or daughter from their after school activity. My son plays Ultimate frisbee till 4:40 pm on Thursdays, so I pulled up to the school at 4:20, giving me 15 minutes of silent and golden writing time. Opened up my laptop and typed up what I'd scribbled in my notebook that morning as fast as my fingers allowed me. Had to drop it all fast and run to get him--not a big fan of the sudden whisking away and switch from Writer to Mom in half a nanosecond--but at least I started something I now look forward to finishing up . . . after the kids fall asleep tonight.

Our Lady of Perpetual Excuses is beginning to morph into Our Lady of I Can Do This Daily Poem Thang. I don't do it often, but I am going to take myself a leetle teeny-tiny bow.

Do you deserve to take a bow as well? Please, if you have a secret for getting yourself writing each (or nearly each day), share it here. We could all use a bit of advice and inspiration. Thanks!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Reasons for Not Writing

1. I had to take my son to the doctor and hospital yesterday. For a diagnostic chest x-ray. He has bronchitis. Thankfully not pneumonia, but he's been out of school two weeks, and now another week while he gets rid of his nasty cough. A kid at home sick is keeping me from writing poetry.

2. My spring garden must be planted. Today I must pull weeds and buy spinach starts, and plant mustard and arugula seeds. Today I must dig the earth and mulch it with compost. A hoe in hand is pre-empting my fifteen minutes of scribbling.

3. For reasons I will not go into, the playroom needs to be organized. I need to go to Storables and purchase white wicker baskets. Then I need to hide all the unsightly toys, organize all the sightly toys, and make the playroom look like it's being used without making it look messy. (This never happens in real life, but never mind). While I am organizing the puzzles and blocks, I will not have a pen in hand.

4. My daughter has been begging me all week to take her to the Science Center. I love taking her to the Science Center, but this will make it difficult to . . . you know what.

Excuses? Worthy excuses? I hate excuses. (If you read my blog, you should know that about me by now.)

Listen: I know that there's always a good and valid excuse out there not to write--vomiting due to a dose of chemotherapy, trips to Costco for diapers and wipes, a splitting headache, having to take the cat to the vet. There is always a good excuse to not pull out one's notebook for even fifteen minutes and jot down a few images or recall a childhood memory of chasing after the Good Humor truck.

Sometimes we're just too tired or defeated or brimming with loss to pick up a pencil or pen.

Okay, I'll make a deal with myself. Sometime today, when I'm resting from digging or patting down dirt, I will pull out my notebook and write a poem about seeing my son's scrawny naked chest against a wall, standing so still and holding his breath, and/or about planting a garden with two 6-year olds. I do have a lot to rejoice about, to be thankful for, but even if I didn't, even if he did have pneumonia or worse, I still know I would turn to poetry to help me through it.

That's what poetry, to me, is about.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Report on Days #4, #5 and #6, NaPoMo

The first three days of NaPoMo I was away at a scholarly retreat center, so piece of cake. Then I returned home and it got a little more difficult, but not so much that I've thrown in the towel.

However, since we're sharing . . .

I wrote my day #4 poem on a bus, one of my favorite places to be an anonymous writer with all her creature comforts at her side (pen, notebook, satchel with lunch, water, other essentials).

In order to write my day #5 poem, I had to work on it in my car outside my daughter's school for five minutes, then finish it while my son and I waited for the pediatrician to walk in. Luckily I was channeling Richard Hugo, so I was loopy with risk and waxing on the edge of sentimental.

For day #6's attempt, I sat on a park bench alternately watching my daughter and her friend play on the swings and reading GC Waldrep's Archicembalo for inspiration.

Note: I don't know what it's like where you live, but not many moms come to the park with a notebook and a book of poems, all ready to have it out with words right there by the monkey bars. If I'd had time to notice, I might have registered a few stares, but actually I doubt it as thankfully there's not a whole lot of judgment going down in my 'hood.

I am trying, in a sorta 12-step way, to not think about how I am going to write a poem a day for the rest of the month, but tomorrow I'm planning to write my poem at the coffee shop where I hang out for an hour while my daughter's in art class.

Okay, won't plan any further than that . . . and in the meantime I can look forward to my reward for writing a poem tomorrow (a lemon cupcake!!).

For years I've looked on in admiration as so many of my poet friends do the poem-a-day thing for the entire month of April. It feels good to be among them at long last.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Stuff I Got to Research While Working on My Day 3 Poem

Top to Bottom: Flying Asparas of the Tang Dynasty (rocking goddess who worshipped the Buddha with song and ribbon-ful dance); Chilean flamingo, yellow-bellied millipede, a palm reading diagram, a documentary from 1960 about migrant agricultural workers, and a specimen of radium and polonium extracted from 5,000+ tons of pitchblende.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

National Poetry Month Free Poetry Book Giveaway

Wanna free copy of my new book, The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, winner of the 2010 Saturnalia Books Poetry Award? If you answered yes, here's all you need to do:

1. Comment on this post, saying something like "Count me in!"

2. Wait till the end of April, when I throw all the names into a hat and pick just one.

3. If you are chosen, I will contact you and ask you to provide me with your ground mail address.

4. A few days later you will receive your very own copy of a book by the poet whom David Kirby says you should be listening to instead of CNN.

Yes, folks, it's that easy.

Happy National Poetry Month, everyone. May poetry ring through your ears, down your halls, and through your very own special piece of heaven all the live-long April.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

End of Day #2 and NaPoMo Poem-a-Day-ing Away

or should I say choking, though not in the sense you think! Am working on a poem about artichokes. They are quite a lovely vegetable, are they not? And loaded with antioxidants. Who knew?