Tag Archives: books

on moments of time: (story)time: eat this poem by nicole gulotta


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“As for food, simple cooking dominates most days, like jam spooned into thick yogurt, a bowl of popcorn left on the coffee table, or beans smashed on bread. None of it is particularly noteworthy. Leftovers are placed in glass containers for tomorrow’s lunch, and scraps are scraped into the trash bin. Whole plums, celery stalks, and bunches of carrots in the bottom of the crisper go soft before we can use them. The remains of our meals are discarded like poem fragments we put into a file to look at when we’re in need of inspiration.

A poem stops time, keeping a moment suspended until we’re ready to revisit it. A good meal stops us too, however briefly, reminding us to savor every bite.” – Nicole Gulotta, Eat This Poem.

I’ve had this book in my hands for a month now, but I wanted to read through it all first, and cook from it as well, before I shared it with you. The month has been very busy, but I’ve pulled this book into my lap for five and ten minute stretches here and there, and we’ve been cooking from it all month. To be completely honest, it wasn’t the first time I’ve read or cooked with Nicole. Her blog of the same name is a staple in my life, and I consult her Literary City Guides first before planning any trip. I even got to test out some of the recipes in this book last year as Nicole was writing and editing her manuscript. I had to dig a little to find the photos I took during that time, and finally found this one.

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Our family tested four of Nicole’s recipes, and the Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies could be reason alone to purchase this cookbook. But don’t let it be.

The only recipe I made for just me was a simple Caesar salad with paprika croutons. I saw this photo and I can remember all the details of that Saturday afternoon. I was home from yoga, and the sun was streaming in the back window of the kitchen as it likes to do on the weekends. Everyone else was eating at the table while I prepped the ingredients; they were scattered again when I finished. I pulled the latest issue of Dwell out of the mail pile, and filled a water spotted glass two-thirds high before sitting down to eat. I ate the whole bowl, and helped myself to seconds. The afternoon stretched ahead of me, glass-spotted, sun-spotted. I packed the leftovers into glass containers for tomorrow’s lunch, and ate the scraps, folded down the corner of the magazine page, and set it aside to finish later.

…..

Pairing Nicole’s own rich food stories and kitchen experiments with poetry is the magic here. One night I had beets, and I started in an ordinary place – the index, scrolling my finger though the b’s to find inspiration. But another night I first opened and began to read Billy Collins’ writing about a pear, and dinner inspiration started there. Food is temporary, fleeting. A few moments on our counter, and then spent – eaten, stored, discarded. It meets us where we need it, and can be nothing more than that. Which makes the memory of a salad on a Saturday that much more surprising – and comforting. What else did I do that day? I’m not really sure, but I can still remember standing there at the counter, scraping croutons off the baking sheet, and eating scraps as I went.

…..

BASKETS

By Louise Gluck

From The Triumph of Achilles (1980)

1.
It is a good thing,
in the marketplace
the old woman trying to decide
among the lettuces,
impartial, weighing the heads,
examining
the outer leaves, even
sniffing them to catch
a scent of earth
of which, on one head,
some trace remains—not
the substance but
the residue—so
she prefers it to
the other, more
estranged heads, it
being freshest: nodding briskly at the vendor’s wife,
she makes this preference known,
an old woman, yet
vigorous in judgment.

2.
The circle of the world—
in its midst, a dog
sits at the edge of the fountain.
The children playing there,
coming and going from the village,
pause to greet him, the impulsive
loving interest in play,
in the little village of sticks
adorned with blue fragments of pottery;
they squat beside the dog
who stretches in the hot dust:
arrows of sunlight
dance around him.
Now, in the field beyond,
some great event is ending.
In twos and threes, boldly
swinging their shirts,
the athletes stroll away, scattering
red and blue, blue and dazzling purple
over the plain ground,
over the trivial surface.

3.
Lord, who gave me
my solitude, I watch
the sun descending:
in the marketplace
the stalls empty, the remaining children
bicker at the fountain—
But even at night, when it can’t be seen,
the flame of the sun
still heats the pavements.
That’s why, on earth,
so much life’s sprung up,
because the sun maintains
steady warmth at its periphery.
Does this suggest your meaning:
that the game resumes,
in the dust beneath
the infant god of the fountain;
there is nothing fixed,
there is no assurance of death—

4.
I take my basket to the brazen market,
to the gathering place.
I ask you, how much beauty
can a person bear? It is
heavier than ugliness, even the burden
of emptiness is nothing beside it.
Crates of eggs, papaya, sacks of yellow lemons—
I am not a strong woman. It isn’t easy
to want so much, to walk
with such a heavy basket, either
bent reed, or willow.

…..

Buy a copy of Eat This Poem for yourself, but then maybe for your mother next week, or the teachers who share poetry with you and your children, or the newlyweds just filling a first kitchen, or any others who feed your soul.


[Gift pairs well with the aforementioned cookies.]

(story)time: The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy

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“I was afraid of the sea when I was a girl. Someone said it went on forever and that frightened me. I wondered why my parents had chosen to live at the beginning and the end of the world.”

In contrast to Broken Verses, with its flowery, poetic prose, The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy has a very spare and simple writing structure. It was interesting to read the two, back to back. I read Broken Verses over the course of a week and a half, most of it over breakfast in a hotel, or in small quiet moments in the car. I read The Illusion of Separateness in two nights – the first half while sitting in the tub until the water ran cool, and the second half in bed the following night. This book can be read in two hours – it’s up to you where you want to surrender those hours – soaks or sheets.

I just finished the series opening podcast of Harry Potter and The Sacred Text (Book 3, Chapter 1), and the text was discussed through the lens of “mercy”. The act of mercy is the centerpiece in this novel – each chapter is devoted to a character and a story, and the people in these stories are woven together through several generations and across oceans and battlefields. I plan to read the novel again – to look again at the text through the lens of mercy, and to fully understand how these acts bind the characters together and bring others to life as a result.

“Then, breathing slow, and almost deliberately, stops. But for a moment the old man doesn’t realize he is dead. He can feel Martin’s heart and mistakes it for his own.”

A lovely book to read, and read again. If I implied that this book lacks poetry in my opening paragraph, then I must clarify that. It is replete with it.

“He realized this early on, and realized too that what people think are their lives are merely its conditions. The truth is closer than thought and lies buried in what we already know.”

(story)time: Broken Verses by Kamila Shamsie

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Last week the blog was silent because we took off on a family road trip over spring break. I posted some photos on IG, but I’ll do a trip post soon, probably this weekend. In the meantime, I got some more reading done, so I thought I’d do some quick posts here.

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Broken Verses by Kamila Shamsie was first published over a decade ago. I came across it on a reading list somewhere recently, and I’ve been waiting for my turn to borrow it from the library. The book is set in Karachi, Pakistan, post-9/11, and focuses on a young, upper class woman working on a local television quiz show. Aasmaani is still grappling with the disappearance of her mother, a famous Pakistani activist, and the brutal murder of her mother’s lover, the beloved Poet of Pakistan, two years before her mother goes missing. Because of the mysterious circumstances around their death / disappearance, Aasmaani has been unable to move through the grief process, and is clinging to any hope of a future reunion – seeing clues in both the real and imagined.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, because I think it’s important for the thoughts and letters and search to unfold in Aasmaani’s time. But I will tell you that this is a book to linger over, and to reread in sections. Shamsie’s prose is rich and textured – the lines are really blurred between the Poet’s work and his words, and the words of others. The themes of grief – and grief avoided – as well as clinical depression and familial love are powerful and real. The undercurrents of political movements throughout the 70’s and 80’s, and into the 90’s/post-9/11 are a timely read (aren’t so many things these days, if we’re being honest?).

I’ve been on a bit of a mother-daughter / parent-child run in my reading lately. Unintentional, but very powerful.