Kitchen Affairs and Poetics

Photo by Luo ping on Unsplash

So sorry, dearies. My life has been a little chaotic, personally, professionally, and writing hasn’t been a top priority. Actually, that isn’t true, it’s been a desire, but the mood hasn’t been positive for writing. I was down in the depths of sadness and frustration with Lucifer recently, but life has changed a bit and my outlook is a lot better. Life is changing again as Lucifer is now no longer my head Chef. Now I have a new boss. A new man in my life. Lol. My new Chef starts today when I’m off work, so I won’t get to know the full extent of what it’s like to work with him until later this week. I met him last week and I already like what I see. I have to come up with a name for him… I’m leaning towards Shakespeare or William from Knights Tale.  I’m sure you can figure out from that what his name is.

But this post isn’t about that at all. That’s just a life update. Now onwards to what this post is about:  The poetry from the kitchen and the affairs of life that create the poetry that is my life. People forget that we are poetry in motion.

Everything in life is an inspiration to me and for my writing. It’s the littlest of things, or sometimes, very large things. It’s the every day, it’s the extraordinary. Needless to say, the Kitchen brings a whole new life to my writing. From love affairs that have not panned out, to friendship, to cooking, heartache, depression, frustration, magic, excitement, creation. Heat, fire, flames, cold, water, air, food…. it all comes together creating this dance of a life that I seriously could not see myself without these days. I can’t imagine not working in this kind of life.   (okay, a little part of me really could, but that’s only if I am married and don’t have to work and can be just a writer. Luxury thinking there)

I read off my ‘kitchen poetry’ to my writing group and it has become a thing where Mels and Dona have both said I need to work on this aspect and focus on it, or at least see it as a chapbook of poetry and such. The work flavors my writing so much these days. I even have a title for my work if it ever goes anywhere. “Field Notes on Kitchen Affairs”  though I think “Field Guide to Kitchen Affairs” works as well.

Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

I write about ‘the dance’ and the life and things that have come together to create this camaraderie of things with people I would have never spent time with had I not been working with them. I love that I am both morning crew and night crew, or night shift as I think of it. I work mornings once a week and the rest of the week I am a closer, being one of the last lines of defense against the scourge that is a dirty kitchen. There is magic in the morning in the silence before the mad dash of the day starts, there is this subtle simplicity of scrubbing down stainless steel at night and knowing you are leaving it as spotless as possible for the morning crew.

Working hand in hand with people you have been with since day one, where one moment you can hate that person, the next you are arm in arm standing firm against the tide of tickets that have just printed up minutes from end of service.  This fight against your own ego and doubt, the fight against the doubt and egos of others. Moving up through the ranks, learning, cramming ideas and techniques into your head, a neverending supply of knowledge. I joked with Lucifer the other day that I have had three different chefs tell me how to make pasta. His reply? “Well, now you know three ways to make pasta!”  Smartypants.  But it’s true.

Here is some of the poetry or more, lines of poetry that have come from work. I won’t share entire poems as I plan to see about publishing but enjoy nonetheless

An Alliance of Gazelles

A flower girl, a pure one, almost,
brazenly attacking and metal clanking,
we are the black white yin yang of the feminine mystique,
she is no demon,
I am no angel,
I am her, she is me,
we are and have become
a whirling dervish,
flesh against flesh we exist in this spatial moment,
an alliance,
this torrid rip of polyvinyl, a film covering over smells and service,
stacking, towering heights,
steel wool buffs out the filth,
the grime sliding down to coat a slick surface of desperate moments,

 In the Evening Quieting of a Kitchen

With the fans off, with just a gentle hum
stainless counters and sinks gleam in their
scuffed patina from scoured scratches of steel wool
red tiles are mopped and grease free
gentle whirs of compressors from refrigeration units
empty stations, empty Chef’s table but for
a single note scribbled on ticket paper
long and lean, blue tape holding it down.
The long, never-ending list of prep on the whiteboard
is cleared off, black half smudges gone,
and new type is written up for the
new day’s prep when morning crew comes in.
Order lists filling up columns, humor jotted down
on the small squared off ‘kitchen blog’ corner,
the night shift in all their exhausted glory
leaving twisted and strange jokes.
Dishes stacked just so in warmers and on shelves,
cambros lined up neatly; nine, six, third, half,
and full hotels are back to rights.

Kitchen Choreography
Not with a fizzle, but with a bang,
the issues are decided here,
silent nuanced double meanings,
the start of every work day where
a Wednesday feels like a Monday.

A pristine kitchen waits to be cluttered,
surfaces waiting to be filled as we
shift around each other, pieces readjusting,
watch-like mechanical movements, tick-tocking.
Time rushing by us. Pans shift, doors open.
The whir of mixing, snap, snap, snapping—
a knife in an onion, hitting a board.
Steel hitting wood, slicing soft flesh.

Fans deafen; defeat normal tones, a shouting match,
a fight ensues to be heard over the gentle roar.
Ovens are blazing, pilot light’s blue flames.
Electrical currents of live wire flow out from
the shifting of bodies, a warning of human placement,
hands sliding across backs,
a warning, a guard, reevaluating each other’s dance space

You can see that there are definitely things that are so kitchen related. I guess being a writer and a prep chef, you get to see both aspects of the world. The writing world and the cooking world.  It has been so inspirational.  I keep writing more and more about it in different aspects. I have one poem about how a knife isn’t just a knife. There is a whole story there. Personal aspects of people. You love and hate your coworkers. One minute you want to kiss someone then next, stab them, smack them, yell an insult. We insult each other all the time. It is what makes us one of the most dysfunctional families around. I may eviscerate a coworker, but I also stand by them.

Anyways, there are my last three weeks. Heartache, working, exhaustion, food, poetry, fire….. Hmm, a sorceress at work here…

Kate

PAD Day 20 – Unsaid – The Things We Left Unsaid

The Things We Left Unsaid

The things we left unsaid
are read between the lines
or in the pauses of words
said in a moments confined.

Things said in passionate heat
I know I said them to you
But you didn’t understand them
I will not explain them true.

You can go your way unknown
And I will go mine in pain
I can’t make you know these things
Only frustration remains.

I thought you once understood
these things I pleaded to you
in the silence of the space
It is clear that we are through.

I hope that once the air clears
I’ll explain myself right there
to put our anger aside
and to end our love affair.

What’s said between the unsaid
between the lines of love
it is sometimes left unknown
and I’ve said this all above.

 

One of the things I know about myself, though I tend to write very long letters, I tend to leave things left unsaid and between the lines. Hoping beyond hope that the person I’m writing will get it without me having to explain myself.  Mostly men in my life. Which is clearly a bad thing to do because guys just do not get subtle. I’m not sure they get it unless you throw a brick at them and even then they are thinking, “Oh a brick.”  Sigh.  This applies to one particular person, but still it’s true that a lot of our life has things between the lines that are not spoken aloud.

On a side note, I was encouraged this morning reading Robert Brewer’s prompt. Here is what he said –

Until last week, it had been since before Thanksgiving that I’d submitted poems anywhere. I’d received more than 10 rejections in that time, and well, I’m human–so I was a little down. Decided to submit some poems this month and over the weekend received an acceptance of not one but five poems all at once! Anyway, it just goes to show the importance of perseverance–all writers need a little; it’s just something that should be said.

I have been struggling with what to do with my poetry and even the fact that I wasn’t picked for the previous PAD challenge.  But here you have the Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community who is struggling just like the rest of us. I had the inflated view that this man must be publishing things all over the place.  Clearly, just like the rest of us, rejections are all part of the game.  So, thank you, Robert, for sharing your life. I think we all need a bit more encouragement than we think we need.  So I applaud you and congratulations.

Now I need to consider what I want to submit to myself. Because, whether I’m a poet, a writer, a novelist, a picture book creator, or whatnot, I am a writer in ever sense of the word.

Kate

Final Thought on Writer’s Digest PAD Chapbook Challenge

I spent November in a world of sonnets.  I loved working on the Poem a Day challenge by Writer’s Digest.  I pushed myself more than I have with poetry before. I could not keep up with writing a sonnet a day. It took me usually two days to write one, and some prompts left me going, ‘Oh boy.’  I struggled with ideas, and I ended up with a lot of sonnets that were winter inspired or sadness inspired.  Hence my manuscript title of Midwinter & Melancholy.  I ended up with 13 really good sonnets that I just submitted last night.

Right now I’m sitting here going, oh did I do enough?  Did I write enough?  I could only send in between 10-20 sonnets.  And I picked my best ones. I had a couple other silly ones that did not get into the chapbook manuscript.  I wrote one about White Christmas, the film, and then a vampire-y one. I had two about the holiday season.  I had my silly Once Upon A Time one.  I wanted to write a Once Upon a Winter’s Night sonnet, but then forgot.  Oops.  It would have worked perfectly with what I had typed up.  Oh well. It’s too late now because the file is out of my hands and now in Mr. Brewer’s.

So now comes the waiting process.  Until March.  I hate this feeling of sending in a manuscript. I hate the waiting. I hate the feeling that I forgot something. Nerves. Paranoia.  Will I ever get over sending in manuscripts?  I sent in a short story in January to three literary magazines.  Now I have to find more to send in to. I have found two.  But I’m panicking.  I panic a lot when it comes to writing. That inferiority complex. The “I’m not good enough to get published…..”  The “Dammit! I’m good enough I’m gonna send it in…..oh God, my work is crap what was I thinking?!!!”  Feeling.

Do all writers feel like this?  Do you feel like this?  Will it ever go away?  Sigh.  Le sigh.  I guess if I want to be published, this is part of the process.  Pardon me while I go curl up in a ball and rock back and forth in terror.  No, just kidding.

So….. There you have it.  I am glad I did this poetry challenge.  I love writing sonnets now and I have kept it up.  My new prompt of the week is Whispers from the guy who’s giving me word prompts. I love these prompts.  I need something to keep me focused.  This is certainly doing it.

So. There you have my PAD followup.

Kate

Printed Books Are Fun

Aren’t those lovely? What are they, you ask? Well, I was feeling very adventurous so I printed up my children’s story ‘Lulu Buys A Hat’.  For those interested, making your own book isn’t exactly easy.  Especially when you don’t have a printer that likes collating.

You have to know how to stack pages so that they come out in book format. Again, not easy in the least.  Fortunately, I’ve done this several times for my own personal thing, or gifts. (stacked books, not printed my own books) Also, this was only three pages, four if you count the cover with the title. The hardest part was actually creating the binding and making sure the scrapbook paper covered the card stock I used for the binding.

Inside the cover

They turned out better than I expected, and it is somewhat thrilling to see something of your own, printed and bound.  I can’t wait for the day that these actually have pictures.  Because, yes, these are supposed to be picture books.

My father finally got to read the completed, and edited version (funny story about that. See below this paragraph).  His comment was totally girly.  Well, duh!  It’s about a girl who buys a hat.  Do you know of a guy that is really going to want to read about a girl buying a hat? I don’t.

Regarding the editing?  Well, apparently, even though I have gone over this story several times, I missed a few words.  It wasn’t until I printed it the first time Mrs. Day asked if I had edited a second time. Of course I hadn’t, so she ran through it. And obviously she found some words I had missed. The one that I laughed the most at was ‘window’ being ‘winder’.  What was I thinking there? Well, it’s all pretty now. I’m sure there are still mistakes. I don’t actually have an editor for this, sorry George. While I totally trust everything you say, even you have missed things.

Anyways, it was fun to do this.  Now to finish the query letters for this one, collect a few agents to query and we are getting somewhere.

(for those that read Escaping the Inkwell, sorry for the double post)

Signing off

~Kate

If Persephone Had Been a Publisher

I will gladly admit I love books.  I live for books.  I cannot go through life without books.  And when I come across books printed in a very classic way, I want them. Sometimes I want books just because they look nice, even if I don’t plan to read them.  I know, scandalous.  However, you might understand this when I tell you about this fascinating publishing company.

Shop photoPersephone Books out of the UK is  a publishing company that only publishes books by women authors.  With a  heading of “Rediscovered twentieth century novels, Twentieth century female authors and Inter-war Novels”, how could you go wrong?   From obscure titles like

Endpaper of Marchioness

The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett to

Endpaper of Saplings

Saplings by Noel Streatfeild.  Did you know Streatfeild wrote for adults?  Neither did I.

 

Persephone Books boasts 96 books in their selection, each with a different end paper.  This is one of the charms about Persephone Books.  While their covers are a pleasing dove-gray, it is the end papers that really catch your eye.  Each book has its own endpaper set to the book style, or the time period it was printed.  Each is completely different, and completely charming.  Along with that, each book comes with its own matching bookmark; a book mark that matches the endpaper, that is.  How completely wonderful is that?

 Below is the original article from February 2010’s Vanity Fair.  This is the article that introduced me to the imprint.

” A Woman of Substance

PERSEPHONE BOOKS’ FEMININE MYSTIQUE

Nicola Beauman, Persephone Books founder

Persephone, the British imprint founded by Nicola Beauman, evokes cozy and nostalgic memories of London train rides, Yardley English Lavender, freshly brewed tea being poured into a proper china cup, a spring popping out of a slightly doggy-smelling armchair. The tiny catalogue’s 86 titles are a compendium of short stories, memoirs, cookbooks, and republished works by neglected female writers from the interwar years. Authors such as Dorothy Whipple, Marghanita Laski, Winifred Watson (whose book Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was made into the 2008 film), and Mollie Panter-Downes, the London wartime (and peacetime) correspondent of The New Yorker, tell stories of gentle, respectable domesticity, of outward seemliness and inner turmoil which, through the banal minutiae of a housewife’s day, unravel to who life exquisitely and often darkly revealed.  “These are books where nothing and everything happens at the same time, ” offers Beauman, a Cambridge-educated mother of five.  “They are an acknowledgement that the small-scale should never be overlooked. ”  Frustrated by been able to find her favorite authors only in second-hand shops, Beauman, herself an author and a passionate champion of  “the middlebrow,” opened Persephone in 1999 in a shabbily genteel former grocery store on London’s Lamb’s Conduit Street

Eleven years later, the imprint, with its uniform dove-gray book jackets and beautiful endpapers, lovingly handpicked by Beauman and her staff, has developed a cult following.  For example, the endpaper for Doreen, a 1946 tale by Barbara Noble about a child evacuee torn from her mother, was taken from a 1940 “London Alert” print silk scarf belonging to a Persephone reader.  For Dorothy Whipple’s The Closed Door and Other Stories, Beauman chose a design from a 1930s tea gown she’d found at Camden Passage Market.

“Allergic to the corporate” and admittedly “short” with people who tell her she  ought to expand the business into wallpaper and greeting cards, Beauman nonetheless dreams of the day when all those British-costume-drama producers will leave Jane Austen alone, stop trying to  do the definitive Sense and Sensibility, and instead look to Dorothy Whipple for inspiration.  Tea gowns instead of bonnets?  Oh heppy, heppy day.   -Christa D’Souza”

I must make Persephone Books a place to stop when I go to London.

Isn’t that brilliant?  I think so.  The idea completely invokes the thought of cozy nooks to read and drink tea, a vase of peonies on the little table next to your chair.

While I do love the look of these books, and wouldn’t mind owning a few, I am a bit disappointed they are paperback books instead of hardbacks.(at least they seem to be paperbacks when I look at purchasing from Amazon)  I am a hardback person.  However, the paperback doesn’t diminish their charm.  I also am not willing to spend  £12 (or whatever the dollar’s conversion of that is)  Seems a bit steep for a paperback.  Hence, Bookmooch I’m calling on you.

Well, I hope you all will check out this charming imprint, even if you don’t plan to order from them. The site is well worth a look, and set up in a very nice manner.  I love that they show the endpaper of each book and most tell where they got the design from.  Along with a very nice section of mini biographies of the authors themselves. 

My concluding thought is they should have an imprint of male writers.  I know that there are plenty of books written by men, but think about how interesting it would be if there was one for men titled, oh  I don’t know, Apollo Books.  (or anything else Greek)  I think some of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries would be good.  Or who knows what.  Dark brown books with a cream label and end papers that are clearly masculine.  I think it’s an interesting idea.

Well, check out Persephone Books.  Trust me, I don’t think you will be disappointed. Charming doesn’t even begin to describe this company.

Signing off

~Kate 

My Take on LGBT in Literature

”]Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

Yesterday, blogger Amanda Rudd posted about her LGBT bookshelf, and the lack of that theme in many YA books, along with it being harder to have books published with that orientation as a focus of the books.  I wanted to voice my opinion here, instead of just commenting on her post.  You can read her original post here, My LGBT YA Bookshelf, which also has another link to a couple other things relating.

I think one thing about YA literature, for one is, most young adults are not reading it.  It is a harder age group to publish in because of the lack of reading.  Having worked at a library, I can honestly say that the Young Adult section was one of the least used sections.  Rarely did anyone check out books from there.  That right there in itself, is a reason why publishers would be leery of publishing a book that might not be as popular as others.  As LGBT is not a majority of the population, it isn’t as popular, obviously.  You are taking a risk to publish within the YA books, and an even greater risk with something that may not make a go.

It is becoming more common to see a LGBT theme in adult fiction, but it still isn’t the norm.  Personally, I do not go out of my way to read books that have that theme, as I don’t fully agree with it.  If the lead characters are of that world, then no, I probably won’t read it.  If there are minor characters in a book that are either gay or lesbian, fine, but it wouldn’t be my main attractor.

Now, I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that would like to be able to read books with that theme, but unfortunately, it isn’t as common of a practice yet.  I think it will take time for it to work its way into fiction.  But in my opinion, the reason it isn’t in YA books is because it isn’t the world’s easiest genre/ age group.

Now, this isn’t the most put together post.  I’m sure I could have delved deeper into the subject, but, as it was only meant to be a comment in regards to Amanda Rudd’s blog, I think it’s long enough.

Check out her original post, and see what you think.

Signing off

~Kate