Monday Jul 22

KaiteHillenbrand I’ve been really fortunate this season to be surrounded by family and delicious homemade, locally-grown food. It’s wonderful to cook and also to eat warm food someone else cooked for you. There’s a comforting joy, a mouth-watering cheer in the air, when that happens. Because it’s so nice, and it makes me feel so happy inside, I want to share it. I decided to give you a really easy recipe for wassail. It makes the house a little steamy-warm and delicious. Drink it hot; it’s nourishing and comforting and just somehow perfect, especially if there’s snow outside and a fire in the fireplace – and especially if you get to share it with the people you love.

Start with juice. Pour a whole bottle of apple juice (not from concentrate) and a whole or half of a bottle of orange juice (I’ve been using low acid) into a large pot. Don’t throw the bottles away – you might want to store your wassail in them. Next, add some cranberry juice (I use two of the single-serving size bottles that are 100% juice). Then add pineapple juice. You have some options when it comes to the pineapple; you can get a fresh one and chop it up; you can get canned pineapple (make sure it’s in pineapple juice, not syrup; I’ve been using crushed pineapple); or you can use pineapple juice if you don’t want chunks of pineapple to nibble on as you drink.

Stir the juices together and add about 5 or 6 cinnamon sticks, ¼ of a nutmeg, and a large pinch of cloves (maybe 10-12 cloves). If you’d rather, you can buy mulling spices and add those (but you might still need to add cinnamon sticks). Bring it to a simmer, then lower the heat so that the mixture is steaming but not boiling. After a couple of hours, the juices will have cooked down in the pot an inch or two. Taste test to see if the spices are strong enough and the juice mixture’s to your liking. Wassail’s pretty forgiving; you can add juice, water, or more spices at any point to change the concentration and mixture. If it’s too tart for your taste, add some honey. As soon as it’s cinnamonny enough for you, take the cinnamon sticks out.

Drinking hot wassail is just about guaranteed to make you smile. If you want, go ahead and get started making your wassail– it’s hard to wait when you want some! But be sure to come back and curl up with some poetry while it steams. We have great curl-up-and-read-while-you-drink-wassail poetry for you this month.

JP Reese starts us off this month with stunning work and an interview that will spin you. Ms Reese writes:

It’s not often that reading a poet’s submission leaves me speechless. Kerry Giangrande’s work did this to me and made me a tiny bit envious at the same time. I read one of her pieces aloud just to enjoy the sounds, the tumbling diction, the immediacy, and then I read it to my son, who writes hip-hop lyrics, and he was blown away, too. These works cannot be categorized. They refuse placement or easy definition. Are they flash fiction? Prose poems? Poems? Whatever your take, these pieces are unique. When I realized this writer was just starting out, a youngster, I had to interview her. Her answers are as interesting and stunning as her poetry. I see a long and successful writing life ahead for Kerry, and I now count myself as one of her fans. I think you will, too.

Ms Reese brings us fine work by another impressive poet this month. Of her work, JP writes:

The voice in April Ossmann’s poetry is that of a friend, someone with whom we feel casual and comfortable. Her poetry speaks as an observer of the natural world, but as one who also sees beneath the surface to the ironies hidden beneath the quotidian details. The speaker in “This Blue” sees more than a wide open sky, she sees a sky that is “… too wide, too deep, too blue— / [one that is] too much. [and at the same time] not enough.”

Julie Brooks Barbour brings us truly beautiful poems by one poet this month. Julie writes:

Anne Barngrover’s poems measure loss with anaphora and the metaphor of a spider’s web. Her words haunt the rooms of houses and the corner of a front porch. I found myself returning to these poems for the surprise of imagery and turn of phrase, but also to revisit the scenes that the poet defines so well.

Martina Reisz Newberry shares four poems this month. Ms Newberry’s images are poignant and touching. Most of all, I love the relationships in these poems, which, to me, somehow feel like a relationship with yourself. The constant push and pull of being alive, of making decisions, of taking the next step. Of, when you begin to feel crushed and unfit for the world, deciding to pull it together long enough to have a sandwich with baby spinach leaves instead of lettuce, of turning hope over to the smallest little distracting detail.

Next, a beautiful poem from Anne Whitehouse takes us on a lovely, watery journey into a memory’s intersection with the present. There’s a bit of sadness here, but there’s also comfort in the connection. I love the poem’s sense of time: there’s no rush, and introspection is given its due time; but everywhere are reminders that time keeps moving.
We have two sharp poems by Chris Bullard to share with you this month. I love the take on the brain in “Reactor,” its logical tone, and, so close by, instability and the logical brain’s breaking. These poems show the brain turning on itself, controlling the body and the future even as it loses control over itself.

Alan Isaacs shares two poems with us this month. These poems are clipped and fragmented with moments of slower-paced narrative and insight. They feel like what I imagine a movie set would feel like if you knew it only from small bursts, as from a strobe light with no regular pattern or duration.

Now, if you haven’t yet, go make yourself some wassail or heat up some hot chocolate, tea, coffee, or whatever it is you like to sip on, and come on in by the fire for some poetry.