Special thanks to Editor Brian Spears for including "The Accused Terrorist's Wife" as part of April's National Poetry Month feature at The Rumpus. As for other poetry-related matters, I'm looking forward to reading this.
After a week of touring our friends throughout the country, I'm smoked. More tomorrow.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
|almond slivers sauteed in lamb fat|
|stew over rice and flat bread|
|awaiting final shower of jameed|
My Arabic instructor generously offered a few of her students the opportunity to learn the fine art of Jordanian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Although many of the dishes here are an amalgamation of various Mediterranean specialties (you'll find Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian offerings throughout the country), mansaf is, without question, Jordan's national dish. During our nine months in Amman, K. and I have sampled the lamb (sometimes made with goat) and rice feast in many homes. To help us celebrate Thanksgiving and bridge cultures, one host even concocted turkey mansaf! While the prospect of using turkey raised doubts ("too dry," some argued!), the cynics eventually caved and each agreed, "zaki kiteer" -- very delicious!
From start to finish, making mansaf was an adventure. Shopping for ingredients quickly proved to be a test in Arabic. Three of us wandered the mazes of Sweifieh, checking off lists -- shrak (Bedouin flat bread), kharoof (lamb), baSal (onion), loz (almonds) and so on. The prized possession, however, was jameed, a fermented and dried yogurt essential to the broth.
Wandering the spice souk K. and I first visited during our early weeks in Amman, I realized how far my Arabic has come: once overwhelmed by the foreign script identifying dried chili, cinnamon, and lentils, I now can sound out -- however slowly -- the labels stamped on barrels and baskets of goods. Granted, I don't always know the meaning of what I read. Still, those moments of recognition are joyous: filfil aswad (black pepper), za'tar (thyme), kamoon (cumin), mileh (salt)...
Cooking mansaf isn't all that complicated, but time-consuming. It literally takes hours to prepare. We arrived at five and sat to eat at 8:30. The dish -- for which we needed to purchase a special over-sized platter -- served not only the seven gathered at the table, but the guards and boabs stationed at our homes. We meet at the end of this month for the next lesson. On the menu: an eggplant and minced meat dish topped with sauce and pine nuts, and various meeze (buffet of light sides).
Many thanks to The Southern Review for nominating "Lines Following a Husband's Departure" for Best New Poets. Like many, I was saddened to hear of editor Jeanne Leiby's sudden passing. I'm so grateful she published my work during her tenure at the magazine. "Why I Call" speaks volumes about Leiby's commitment not only to literature as a whole, but those writers behind the writing:
"I spend a lot of my life rejecting things—that’s the reality of my job. When I find something that excites me so much I want to put it in print, I’m happy, I’m thrilled. In the moment of the call, the writer likes me and I like her and we celebrate the work. I call because we—all of us at TSR—strive to build long-term relationships with our writers. We want to engage as much as possible in their writing lives because it’s our job. Sometimes, I call because I’m accepting work from a writer whose work I have adored for so long, I’m star-stuck and I want to talk to him or her because I am a fan. Sometimes, I call writers when I’m rejecting a piece—but a piece that came so close I want them to know our enthusiasm and the details of our discussion. What’s the point of five smart people sitting around the table, talking out a piece in a very serious and focused way and then NOT letting the author know the details of the discussion?"
Saturday, April 23, 2011
|drummers, swordsman, bagpipe player, and guests|
line the stairs for entrance of bride and groom
sick, missed a month's worth of Arabic classes, learned to cook mansaf (Jordan's hearty dish of stewed lamb in jameed sauce over rice and thin bread), poems accepted, poems rejected, sick again, saw peaceful demonstrations by Amman youth near/at Al Hussein Park (not covered in media), discovered green does come with Middle Eastern spring, was pelted by hail in sudden storm, read books of poetry, watched news coverage of regional uprisings, sick, attended Jordanian wedding during which I managed to slip into conversation "hailing hits you on the head hard", returned to Arabic, procrastinated on essay-writing, went to book club, attended lecture by author of Married to a Bedouin, walked the dog. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Rinse, repeat... terribly exciting, isn't it?
Here's what is: T. and M. arrive in less than 24 hours! For a week, we'll tour them around the country's major attractions. It's a long trip from San Francisco, so I expect major jet lag and exhaustion. Still, it will be wonderful to be at home with friends from home. Hurry, and godspeed!
The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt
Illustrating the Machine that Makes the World... (Joshua Poteat)