As someone who inevitably fills every hour of the day with some kind of odd gig or pet project, I often find it hard to leave an entire chunk of time totally free and set aside some time to savor summer while it’s here. But exploring a new cookbook is a great excuse to take a break in the kitchen, and you can always justify taking a break to cook (everybody’s got to eat sometime, after all). Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to spend an entire morning with Joy Wilson’s Over Easy: Sweet & Savory Recipes for Leisurely Days. Based on title alone, it sounded like the perfect companion for a belated break from a busy week.
As far as American poets go, Jorie Graham is a superstar. With over thirteen collections of poetry to her name, she steadily remains well-loved and revered. She has served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, has received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and took over Seamus Heaney’s role as the Boylston Professor of Oratory and Rhetoric at Harvard. To say she is a heavy hitter in the poetry world would be a gross understatement.
Marlene Matar’s The Aleppo Cookbook: Celebrating the Legendary Cuisine of Syria, is a delicious dedication to a city and its food. If I could, I would eat only olives, beans and bread for the rest of my life, and I just might be able to with this book in hand. Matar presents us with a plethora of dishes, from a simple lentil stew to more complex creations like stuffed lamb dumplings. Still, each recipe is easy to follow and most include adaptations for the more adventurous cook.
Many know Ursula K. Le Guin through her hefty body of science fiction and fantasy work, perhaps The Lathe of Heaven or the well-loved Earthsea series. Others might be familiar with her books on writing, like the beautifully titled Steering the Craft: A Twenty-first Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, published in 2015. Still others devote themselves to her poetry, and its gently lilting verse. For those unfamiliar with the latter part of her repertoire, Le Guin’s newest collection, Late in the Day, provides a lovely introduction.
Floating somewhere between fantasy and reality, between the mind and the body, is Güera, the latest poetry collection from Rebecca Gaydos. Published in 2016, the book is divided into five distinct parts, including prologue and epilogue. What struck me initially was the sparseness of each page, made up of stanzas that read as prose instead of verse. However, as I began to read, the weight of each word became immediately apparent.
In his 2016 collection of essays, Another Day in the Death of America, award-winning journalist Gary Younge takes on the high death rates of young people in America. As a parent, he has become acutely aware of, and troubled by, the statistics surrounding the gun-related fates met by an average of seven American children per day. Here, he offers the reader a somber snapshot comprised of ten deaths that occurred over a single twenty-four hour period: November 23rd, 2013.
The first time you pick up Chopper! Chopper! Poetry from Bordered Lives, the temptation to dig through your old college textbooks for your Spanish/English dictionary might be hard to resist. Verónica Reyes charges her lines—nearly every single one—with the sharp electricity of her East L.A. tongue. It’s this dance, this lingual limbo, that transports you straight into the streets of her city. Not tethering herself to English alone allows her to draw beauty from both languages, to choose her words twice as thoughtfully.