Sunday, August 18, 2019

#121 Backstory of the Poem "My Mother's Cookbook" by Rachael Ikins

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***This is #121 in a never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem.  All BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are at the end of this piece. 

#121 Backstory of the Poem
“My Mother’s Cookbook”
by Rachael Ikins
Can you go through the step by step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form. I had helped my elderly aunt when my cousins were packing up their house to move my aunt and uncle to assisted living. Months later my cousins with whom I grew up came back to have a sale and prep the house to be sold. My younger cousin called me after that weekend and told me this story as it happened to her during the packing up. This part of family cycle was much on my mind.
     Poems often start for me with a first line. So “Everyone’s mother had one.” Popped into my head because my mom had a cookbook like my aunt’s too (Rachael's Uncle and Aunt Eleanor Hubbard). The rest of the poem just flowed in time sequence.

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail. Upstairs in my house (Below) mulling it over mentally. I don’t write with pen and paper. I most likely grabbed my phone and opened the notebook app and typed the rough draft of it.

What month and year did you start writing this poem? May 2018. (Left)

How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? I don’t really know because since I use technology almost exclusively and don’t copy drafts onto a new blank page before edits. I try to wait a week or so to let it simmer before going to final.
     Since I work on either iPad or iPhone either in Word, Pages or the notebook, I just scroll through, read and listen. Delete what I don’t want. Or insert what I do. My ear can usually tell me when something doesn’t belong or should be added. Also I will do a specific revision to take out as many of the place holder words I can without it sounding awkward-such as “and, the, a, that” etc. I also revise to convert adjectives to noun-verb combos. I find those to be more powerful than to have a string of adjectives and I try to remove adverbs because I feel the nouns and verbs should tell the reader how the ie. person in the poem is doing something. I do line breaks intuitively. I always try to read aloud to a human. Always catch things reading aloud. Hear the issues. I am working right now on poems from the 1990s. Some are useless but some have potential, and I am teasing things out and into tighter compositions and submitting. I look at language as a puzzle. Just consider lines and see if the words can be rearranged somehow into something more efficient and tight. You want the biggest bang for the tightest buck. MMCB has been published in both journal and book. I shortened some of the lists. It can be alluring to have long lists. Imo this loses the reader. (Above Right: Revisions of Poem)

Were there any lines in any of your rough drafts of this poem that were not in the final version?  And can you share them with us?  I wouldn’t say lines but rather phrases removed in the tightening process. I remember I did add the line about the horse specifically because my cousin Jennifer was a horsewoman and we all are big animal lovers. 

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? A universal feeling of cycles. Our society makes a big ceremony when someone is born. Elderly are less attractive and yet to me, being present to witness and support that final passage is equally important. And sense of empathy for their own experiences. (Right:  Aunt Eleanor at Rachael's home)

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? I would say the final stanza and the placement of the last line. It made me get tears. Because it is a truth, one we all will participate in. Everything does end.
Has this poem been published before if so where?  It was first published in the Pen Woman magazine summer 2018. (Above Left)
This poem appears in my mixed genre memoir Eating the Sun 2019 Clare Songbirds Publishing House.

Anything you would like to add?  When Eating the Sun released a couple months ago my cousin bought it. She texted me how much she loved the “elegant way” I’d told her story. When her mom died Jennifer asked me if I would permit her to read this poem at her funeral and went on to say she had read it aloud to her dad.
What matters to me as a poet is resonating with readers, and this is a perfect example of how that works when it works.

My Mother’s Cookbook

Everyone’s mother had one,
Fanny Farmer or Irma Rombauer, Julia.
The original queens of the kitchen.
A book that was the go-to
even as more exotic volumes joined the shelf.
Stained pages, coffee rings on inside covers.
Notes scribbled, illegible codes.
Recipes in grandma’s language
 nobody is left to translate.
Nuggets of unknown substances
 sticking chapters forever closed.

Broken-backed, swollen with 50 years
 of recipes clipped from Good Housekeeping,
 McCalls, Redbook, years before Cooking Light
 or Martha Stewart.
Stuffed like a turkey.

Dinner parties, birthday bashes,
100s of weeks of nightly meals
first for newlyweds, one then two children.
Nieces, nephews. Grandkids. Holiday feasts.
Dogs licked roast pans,
cats thieved morsels from carving boards.
Napkin-wrapped carrots snuck to the horse.

More intimate than a diary, this record of the life of a family.

Nobody touches the book.
Nobody wants it.
The woman managing the sale tags it $2.
Our giggles echo off  living-room walls,
who would pay $2 for that?

Final day, house sold, movers’ truck growled
down the drive, we await the trash guy.
We pull the last books off shelves and
that cookbook flies lopsided
like an overweight bird and splats,
spills on bare hardwood, a liquid sound.
We try not to laugh, feel like crying.

The realtor says, “All things end.”
Breaks the spell. We bump heads as we gather
papers to our breasts, fingers scrabble scraps,
stuff a garbage bag. Hear the hauler as we straighten up,
knot the bag and yes.
All things end.

     Rachael Ikins is a multiple Pushcart & CNY Book Award nominee, & 2018 Independent Book Award winner for excellence in poetry. 
     She was awarded several fellowships though the Colgate Writers Conference, Hamilton, NY as well as an honorarium from Finishing Line Press which allowed her to read at Lismore Castle, Lismore, Ireland, December 2014.(Left)
     Author of 6 chapbooks, a full length collection, an illustrated fantasy & new mixed genre, illustrated memoir. Her work appears worldwide in journals and anthologies. 

     Ikins is also a prize-winning visual artist. Her multi media art appears on book covers and in illustrations and has been hung in galleries from CNY to Albany, NY, in Washington, DC as well as in Brookline and Hollis, NH. She has given readings as far away as Washington, D.C. and Cape Cod, MA, and in NY featured at historic Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY, Nox with Just Poets Presents in Rochester NY, and Aaduna, Auburn, NY. (Right:  Rachael with her dog Sassie and Cat Katie in 2015)
 She is a graduate of Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science in Child and Family Studies as well as a former sign language interpreter for the deaf.
     A writing consultant and speaker, Ikins is a member of NLAPW and Associate Editor of Clare Songbirds Publishing House. She lives in Baldwinsville, NY near a river where she and her dogs spend time after gardening. Her cats watch the fish tank and garden among the houseplants.


001  December 29, 2017
Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”

002  January 08, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café”

003 January 12, 2018
Barbara Crooker’s “Orange”

004 January 22, 2018
Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”

005 January 29, 2018
Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard”

006 February 03, 2018
Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”

007 February 09, 2018
Leslea Newman’s “That Night”

008 February 17, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”

009 February 24, 2018
Charles Clifford Brooks III “The Gift of the Year With Granny”

010 March 03, 2018
Scott Thomas Outlar’s “The Natural Reflection of Your Palms”

011 March 10, 2018
Anya Francesca Jenkins’s “After Diane Beatty’s Photograph “History Abandoned”

012  March 17, 2018
Angela Narciso Torres’s “What I Learned This Week”

013 March 24, 2018
Jan Steckel’s “Holiday On ICE”

014 March 31, 2018
Ibrahim Honjo’s “Colors”

015 April 14, 2018
Marilyn Kallett’s “Ode to Disappointment”

016  April 27, 2018
Beth Copeland’s “Reliquary”

017  May 12, 2018
Marlon L Fick’s “The Swallows of Barcelona”

018  May 25, 2018

019  June 09, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “Stiletto Killer. . . A Surmise”

020 June 16, 2018
Charles Rammelkamp’s “At Last I Can Start Suffering”

021  July 05, 2018
Marla Shaw O’Neill’s “Wind Chimes”

022 July 13, 2018
Julia Gordon-Bramer’s “Studying Ariel”

023 July 20, 2018
Bill Yarrow’s “Jesus Zombie”

024  July 27, 2018
Telaina Eriksen’s “Brag 2016”

025  August 01, 2018
Seth Berg’s “It is only Yourself that Bends – so Wake up!”

026  August 07, 2018
David Herrle’s “Devil In the Details”

027  August 13, 2018
Gloria Mindock’s “Carmen Polo, Lady Necklaces, 2017”

028  August 21, 2018
Connie Post’s “Two Deaths”

029  August 30, 2018
Mary Harwell Sayler’s “Faces in a Crowd”

030 September 16, 2018
Larry Jaffe’s “The Risking Point”

031  September 24, 2018
Mark Lee Webb’s “After We Drove”

032  October 04, 2018
Melissa Studdard’s “Astral”

033 October 13, 2018
Robert Craven’s “I Have A Bass Guitar Called Vanessa”

034  October 17, 2018
David Sullivan’s “Paper Mache Peaches of Heaven”

035 October 23, 2018
Timothy Gager’s “Sobriety”

036  October 30, 2018
Gary Glauber’s “The Second Breakfast”

037  November 04, 2018
Heather Forbes-McKeon’s “Melania’s Deaf Tone Jacket”

038 November 11, 2018
Andrena Zawinski’s “Women of the Fields”

039  November 00, 2018
Gordon Hilger’s “Poe”

040 November 16, 2018
Rita Quillen’s “My Children Question Me About Poetry” and “Deathbed Dreams”

041 November 20, 2018
Jonathan Kevin Rice’s “Dog Sitting”

042 November 22, 2018
Haroldo Barbosa Filho’s “Mountain”

043  November 27, 2018
Megan Merchant’s “Grief Flowers”

044 November 30, 2018
Jonathan P Taylor’s “This poem is too neat”

045  December 03, 2018
Ian Haight’s “Sungmyo for our Dead Father-in-Law”

046 December 06, 2018
Nancy Dafoe’s “Poem in the Throat”

047 December 11, 2018
Jeffrey Pearson’s “Memorial Day”

048  December 14, 2018
Frank Paino’s “Laika”

049  December 15, 2018
Jennifer Martelli’s “Anniversary”

O50  December 19, 2018
Joseph Ross’s For Gilberto Ramos, 15, Who Died in the Texas Desert, June 2014”

051 December 23, 2018
“The Persistence of Music”
by Anatoly Molotkov

052  December 27, 2018
“Under Surveillance”
by Michael Farry

053  December 28, 2018
“Grand Finale”
by Renuka Raghavan

054  December 29, 2018
by Gene Barry

055 January 2, 2019
by Larissa Shmailo

056  January 7, 2019
“The Seamstress:
by Len Kuntz

057  January 10, 2019
"Natural History"
by Camille T Dungy

058  January 11, 2019
by Brian Burmeister

059  January 12, 2019
by Clint Margrave

060 January 14, 2019
by Pat Durmon

061 January 19, 2019
“Neptune’s Choir”
by Linda Imbler

062  January 22, 2019
“Views From the Driveway”
by Amy Barone

063  January 25, 2019
“The heron leaves her haunts in the marsh”
by Gail Wronsky

064  January 30, 2019
by Terry Lucas

065 February 02, 2019
“Summer 1970, The University of Virginia Opens to Women in the Fall”
by Alarie Tennille

066 February 05, 2019
“At School They Learn Nouns”
by Patrick Bizzaro

067  February 06, 2019
“I Must Not Breathe”
by Angela Jackson-Brown

068 February 11, 2019
“Lunch on City Island, Early June”
by Christine Potter

069 February 12, 2019
by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum

070 February 14, 2019
“Daily Commute”
by Christopher P. Locke

071 February 18, 2019
“How Silent The Trees”
by Wyn Cooper

072 February 20, 2019
“A New Psalm of Montreal”
by Sheenagh Pugh

073 February 23, 2019
“Make Me A Butterfly”
by Amy Barbera

074 February 26, 2019
by Sandy Coomer

075 March 4, 2019
“Shape of a Violin”
by Kelly Powell

076 March 5, 2019
“Inward Oracle”
by J.P. Dancing Bear

077 March 7, 2019
“I Broke My Bust Of Jesus”
by Susan Sundwall

078 March 9, 2019
“My Mother at 19”
by John Guzlowski

079 March 10, 2019
by Chera Hammons Miller

080 March 12, 2019
“Of Water and Echo”
by Gillian Cummings

081   082   083    March 14, 2019
“Little Political Sense”   “Crossing Kansas with Jim
Morrison”  “The Land of Sky and Blue Waters”
by Dr. Lindsey Martin-Bowen

084 March 15, 2019
“A Tune To Remember”
by Anna Evans

085 March 19, 2019
“At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)
by Jeannine Hall Gailey

086 March 20, 2019
“Garden of Gethsemane”
by Marletta Hemphill

087 March 21, 2019
“Letters From a War”
by Chelsea Dingman

088 March 26, 2019
by Bob Heman

089 March 27, 2019
“Clay for the Potter”
by Belinda Bourgeois

#090 March 30, 2019
“The Pose”
by John Hicks

#091 April 2, 2019
“Last Night at the Wursthaus”
by Doug Holder

#092 April 4, 2019
“Original Sin”
by Diane Lockward

#093 April 5, 2019
“A Father Calls to his child on liveleak”
by Stephen Byrne

#094 April 8, 2019
by Marc Zegans

#095 April 12, 2019
“Landscape and Still Life”
by Marjorie Maddox

#096 April 16, 2019
“Strawberries Have Been Growing Here for Hundreds of
by Mary Ellen Lough

#097 April 17, 2019
“The New Science of Slippery Surfaces”
by Donna Spruijt-Metz

#098 April 19, 2019
“Tennessee Epithalamium”
by Alyse Knorr

#099 April 20, 2019
“Mermaid, 1969”
by Tameca L. Coleman

#100 April 21, 2019
“How Do You Know?”
by Stephanie

#101 April 23, 2019
“Rare Book and Reader”
by Ned Balbo

#102 April 26, 2019
by Jefferson Carter

#103 May 01, 2019
“The sight of a million angels”
by Jenneth Graser

#104 May 09, 2019
“How to tell my dog I’m dying”
by Richard Fox

#105 May 17, 2019
“Promises Had Been Made”
by Sarah Sarai

#106 June 01, 2019
“i sold your car today”
by Pamela Twining

#107 June 02, 2019
“Abandoned Stable”
by Nancy Susanna Breen

#108 June 05, 2019
by Julene Tripp Weaver

#109 June 6, 2019
“Bobby’s Story”
by Jimmy Pappas

#110 June 10, 2019
“When You Ask Me to Tell You About My Father”
by Pauletta Hansel

#111 Backstory of the Poem’s
“Cemetery Mailbox”
by Jennifer Horne

#112 Backstory of the Poem’s
by Kate Peper

#113 Backstory of the Poem’s
by Jennifer Johnson

#114 Backstory of the Poem’s
“Brushing My Hair”
by Tammika Dorsey Jones

#115 Backstory of the Poem
“Because the Birds Will Survive, Too”
by Katherine Riegel

#116 Backstory of the Poem
by Joan Barasovska

#117 Backstory of the Poem
by Michael Meyerhofer

#118 Backstory of the Poem
“Dear the estranged,”
by Gina Tron

#119 Backstory of the Poem
“In Remembrance of Them”
by Janet Renee Cryer

#120 Backstory of the Poem
“Horse Fly Grade Card, Doesn’t Play Well With Others”
by David L. Harrison

#121 Backstory of the Poem
“My Mother’s Cookbook”

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