February Reader Spotlight: Jennifer Jackson Berry

In continued anticipation of this week’s event, The Food of Love, today we bring you a little taste of Jennifer Jackson Berry. If you want more than this tease, you’ll have to join us at Zeke’s Coffee, Friday 2/19 at 5pm!

JJBWhy do you write about food?

I’m just following that old adage: write what you know. We all eat, we all know food, so using food as a metaphor, or as a part of the narrative, or as the main focus, makes the piece approachable for many readers.

What’s the sexiest meal you’ve ever had?

I find adventurous eating sexy. My husband & I drove across the country from Pittsburgh to the Grand Canyon, then back, for our honeymoon in 2011. I’m going to read a poem at the Food of Love reading titled “My Offal Honeymoon,” and it describes two of the sexiest meals I’ve ever had. We were arriving at different cities every day, searching out the local favorites, trying different foods, laughing at our trepidation, savoring the best bites, then falling into bed exhausted, but happy.

If someone invented a cocktail named after you, what would it include?

The JJB — something with rum & cherries, fizzy.

Jennifer Jackson Berry’s first full length collection of poetry The Feeder is forthcoming from YesYes Books in October 2016. Her ec-hapbook, When I Was a Girl, is available as a free download from Sundress Publications. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Booth, The Emerson Review, Harpur Palate, Moon City Review, Stirring, and Whiskey Island, among others. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pittsburgh Poetry Review and lives in the Braddock Hills neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
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Say Cheese: Poems by Jen Karetnick

As a dining critic and poet for more than two decades, Jen Karetnick realized she had “fistfuls of poems on many food subjects, including cheese, wine, coffee, fruit, pasta, fish, eggs, and more.” The result was her full-length book Brie Season, published by White Violet Press. We’ve excerpted three delicious poems below.

Karetnick says she was inspired by G.K. Chesterton’s comment, “Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” Smoked, Swiss, soft, gooey—we agree. Let’s rhapsodize together on the delight brought by a perfect, ripened wedge.


A Note to GK Chesterton 

If it’s true, as you say, that we have been
“mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese,”

perhaps it’s because few are the poets
who would choose as a muse

a bloomy rind triple crème
coated with penicillium candidum

when great white herons miss the bay
and, with breeze-fuzzed feathers,

land instead to amuse toddlers by stalking
reef geckos not quite camouflaged

among the grasses growing like lies
on the sand-held bricks of driveways

where basketball nets hang – the tattered
tails of kites – or wax about calf rennet

when older boys wheel like hawks
on baseball diamonds and our daughters

run, more long-legged every day,
under phone wires lined with a dozen

observant ibis, or care about cheddaring
and cave aging when none of these

things are true, and the children we never
bore are regrets, difficult to census

yet kept warm in the nests
of plume-hunted, colonial egrets.


Double Gloucester with Chives and Onions

Oh, you’re sharp. A real British wit. Even at the right
party, your tone is affectation – crumbling bits of puce-

hued irony, melded with tense, chewy bon mots that grind
between the teeth. How I like you: pared. But most take

chunks, willing to risk slavish salivary glands and a pain
not unlike melancholy so that you last between mastications

long after you should have been washed away by a wine
reeking of rain clouds, bruised guava and violets.


Fibonacci’s Angels at Surfing Goat Dairy

My
angels
are covered
in ash, shaped into
convex volcanoes, crumble at
the glance of a blade
as dull as
cracker
crumbs

My
angels
are Swedish
hearts, caraway seeds
nicking the tang of cool and cream,
rudeness to the tooth
under the black
waxy
shield

My
angels
are ping-pong
balls, marinated
in macadamia nut oil
and smoked over shells,
then preserved
in sealed
glass

heads
without
eyes or hair,
Styrofoam angels
before you add the gauzy wings
and Popsicle sticks,
born of goats
balanced
on

waves,
angels
draped in grape
leaves, spiced with the zest
of Provence, touched by Buddha’s Hand,
Thai dragon chilies,
Malabar
pepper,
bone.

Previously published in Cobalt.

***

Jen Karetnick, aka “Mango Mama,” is the author of the cookbook, Mango (University Press of Miami, 2014), which won a 2015 Excellence in Culinary Writing Award from Les Dames d’Escoffier International, and co-author of From the Tip of My Tongue (Story Farm Press, 2015), with chef Cindy Hutson, which won the 2015 “Best Woman Cookbook USA” from the World Gourmand Awards. Karetnick also has two forthcoming books of poetry, American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, May 2016) and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016).

Cheese Fish: December Reader Spotlight on Daniel Shapiro

Today we’re pleased to introduce Pittsburgh poet Daniel Shapiro, who will be kicking things off at our December reading, Six Impossible Things for Breakfast. We asked Shapiro to tell us a little bit about himself, Acquired Taste style.


Shapiro

Why do you write about food?

I haven’t written about food all that much, but I like to do it because it’s not a poetry topic that has been done to death. It’s not break-ups or trees. I typically seek out offbeat themes, odd juxtapositions of words, etc., and food lends itself to these pursuits.

What’s the strangest meal you’ve ever had?

The strangest meal I’ve ever had remains the cheese fish they used to serve at my middle school. Most likely, it was accompanied by the overcooked stalks of broccoli. It consisted of a square, fried piece of what was said to be fish, and the cheese–not unlike Velveeta–was apparently injected into it, a la creme filling into a Twinkie. My friends and I have turned cheese fish into a mythical monster, of sorts, and I hope to have a cheese fish poem available for the reading.

If someone invented a cocktail named The Daniel Shapiro, what would it include?

It would consist of the most expensive, most rare bourbon available and nothing else. It would be the Sasquatch of drinks, putting Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year to shame, causing riots, making people forget about the Tickle Me Elmo massacres of old.


You can read some of Shapiro’s poetry, and even get a taste of him reading it, at Hermeneutic Chaos. If you like the sound of his voice, or just want to hear more about the mythic cheese fish, join us next week at Classic Lines bookstore for Six Impossible Things for Breakfast.

Daniel Shapiro is the author of How the Potato Chip Was Invented (sunnyoutside press, 2013), a collection of celebrity-centered poems. He is a special education teacher who lives in Pittsburgh. He interviews other poets while subliminally promoting his own work at Little Myths.

Six Impossible Things for Breakfast

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

The chocolate frogs of the wizarding world. The ambrosia drunk in the cloud-palaces of Mount Olympus. Giant peaches and enormous beanstalks and more!

From Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage to Alice’s “eat me” currant cake, food casts many a magic spell. Food is larger than life, and its impact on our lives often feels strange, even legendary. Is it any wonder we spin stories endowing food with weird and wonderful powers?

As winter descends into a glittering world around us, join Acquired Taste in a celebration of the weird, mythic, and magical side of food.

Our next event, Six Impossible Things for Breakfast, (named in honor of a bastion of weird food scenes, Alice Through the Looking Glass), will be held on Thursday, Dec. 10th, at 7pm, and will feature readings from Jennifer Bannan, Claire Burgess, and Daniel M. Shapiro. We’ll be hosted by Classic Lines bookstore in Squirrel Hill, and Marissa is planning to bake up plenty of strange cookies for the occasion.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be spotlighting each of our upcoming readers here on the blog, to whet your appetite for the strange and lovely feast to come!

For more information on the event, visit our Facebook page, or contact organizer Marissa Landrigan (acqtaste@gmail.com)

Book Preview: Nobody’s Jackknife

We are so pleased to preview Ellen McGrath Smith‘s newest book of poetry, Nobody’s Jackknife, which will be available Sunday from West End Press. Here’s what she has to say about the collection:

One time, at a party years after I’d stopped drinking, I told someone, ‘The closest I get to a buzz now is when I’m practicing yoga.’ I’m sure this has something to do with endorphins, but it also planted the seeds for a poetry project exploring yoga and alcohol. The poems inhabit a range of forms from sestina to sonnet to ghazal to prose-poem hybrids, mirroring the many shapes the body assumes in a yoga asana practice. Bottoms up and namaste.

If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, you’re in luck: the launch party/power yoga extravaganza is Sunday. From 2:30–3:30, catch your breath at South Hills Power Yoga with local writer and yogi Jennifer Lee. From 4–5:30 at Union Project, the author will read and celebrate with a reception. More details about the event.

Gin & Tonic

Summer with its Bacchus-head of grape leaves.
Summer with its berry-bloodied grin.
The invisible highwire
from Venus to the moon
mid-June to salmon-sun September.

The power of green aspiration:
onion bulbs, beginner’s luck.
The lime-pitched traffic of birds in the morning
on the branches of your nerves,
the cat and the lemony canary,
cellophane laundry hanging out to dry—
moss on white wicker, spiked heels
on wet flagstones, lavender and sweat,
conversational hearts
on the faces lit
by flameless torches.

First published in Kestrel magazine


Stout

As in it hits the spot, the spot in which you live, i.e., you live where you are present.
When you aren’t inside the brown glass beading sweet and bitter of the day condensed—where are you? Forgiven by the skin when caked in mud. A Pilgrim’s Progress free pass from the straight and narrow. Hops and hops and hops and hopes like hockey pucks on ice.

Wholesome: good for the eyelashes. Fiber for nursing women. Stout as Stein and squat as boxhedges separating greener grass from just the plain, which has to mean the world is just a bee in your bonnet, a valley of tears, and a dull dry powdery dross.

As in, I spot you; it takes one to know one. As in, if you would rather sit inside that mulchy barrel all night long than be with me: I understand. I wish to God that I could join you caked in mud and full of hops. I wish to God that I could join you.

First published in Quiddity


Rolling Rock Beer

They don’t get out much, the horses inside me.

What I wouldn’t give to let them out just once a year,

the way the rich Scots-Irish do, up in Ligonier—

groomed and toned to jump and race at Rolling Rock.

They chomp at the bit, day by sober day, while all across the state, beer

distributors and bars are stocked with cold green cans

of pastureland and yeast,

the Loyalhanna boiling down the Laurel Mountains

over the prehistoric cliff where’s someone’s scrawled:

        If you love something, let it go.

I once lay back on that cliff while my horses fanned

and ran slipshod over Mellon land, hill and dale.

And I can’t help but feel that, somewhere in Westmoreland County,

in the back of a dark bar,

somebody strums on a guitar and sings Rocky Top—

after all that has come and gone, whole decades

       later—and it still goes down

like novelty or, at least, the status quo for those who sit and listen,

a cold Rock on the table, fingers at a gallop

on the denim fields of thighs, buzzing neurons doing

their own version of the steeplechase,

following the invisible fox, with a certain formal grace,

all the way to Sunday.


If you loved that preview, you can order the collection here. Who wouldn’t want these kingly monkeys on their bookshelf?

The West End Press, 2015
The West End Press, 2015