Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday, June 25,2017: Rainy Day Strawberry Jam

Photo from Wikipedia, Strawberries 

This year may be the longest lasting Spring on record.  The temperatures have been mostly cool and rainy, with an occasional warm, humid day.  Because of this, and the delay in our planting the gardens, I am behind on putting by jam.

Yesterday, Peter and I ventured West to visit our Mennonite friends who grow exceptional strawberries.  In luck,  they had a flat (8 quarts) ready to sell.  Today, I began the long process of making Rainy Day Strawberry Jam.

Our whole farmhouse smells incredibly fragrant and the jam is out of this world.  Strawberry jam is tricky.  The fruit, perfect as it may be, doesn't have a lot of natural pectin. It throws a a pink foam in the cooking down process.  Patience is needed. If you aren't patient, then don't undertake this.  You have to wait, and I mean wait, until there is a glossy sheen to the bubbling strawberry stew.  Slowly, it will thicken up. So far, 4 quarts gave us 92 oz.  The jars are lined up on the counter cooling.  I love hearing the pop, pop, pop of the lids.  I have another 4 quarts to process; then, back to the Johnson Creek Farm  on Monday to pick up our second flat. I love this work.
Photo from Wikipedia, Strawberries. This one is called 'perfect.'

Later this afternoon at 4 p.m., free and open to public, I will be giving a poetry reading at Books, ETC on Main Street in Macedon NY, L.John Cieslinski, my good friend, fellow poet, wise man in all aspects of life,  runs this cozy establishment where he hosts many readings and discussion groups. It's always a joy to see John and pick up a book or two.  Reading makes all the difference in the world.

If you free and in the area, please join us. I will be reading from my latest poetry collection, Small Worlds Floating (Cherry Grove Collections, 2016). I will have books available for sale and signing.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Solstice: Our Faces Lifted to the Sun

Photo K. Iuppa

Yesterday, we celebrated the lingering daylight, the perfume of all things summer. This is the beginning of  work and recreation-- all of which happens outside.  Outside. The sun shines today.

Today we begin to learn all things about bees. We've cleared an area among the trees where the hive will  sit protected from the wind and rain and sun. It will be their safe harbor. The hive arrives tonight.

A few facts about keeping bees.
Never wear black around the hive, the bees will think you are a bear, and you know what bears like is honey, and the bees know this, and they put up a fuss with you, impersonating bear. Bees forage two miles from hive every day.  Bees are attracted to carbon dioxide in one's exhale, which leads them straight to one's mouth. Note to self:  be sure to breathe through nose.

Yesterday, I weeded the kitchen garden.  Many goddess-given cherry tomato plants, green onions, lettuces (a variety of deliciousness-- we had fresh lettuce last night for dinner), beets, kale. The Garlic is thriving.  It's gigantic. It's spicy, too. It's really good.

Then, I poked around the North garden, checking on my recent planting and everything is doing well.
I have my fingers-crossed that we will have the right amount of sun, rain, heat to give our gardens the necessary double dose tonic. We are 3-4 weeks behind. If we have a growing season that goes through October, we will be all set.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thursday, June 15, 2017 Mary, How does your garden grow?

Red Rooster Farm:

This week, we were able to till the North and East gardens, and yesterday I began planting the North garden.  Thus far, yesterday and today, I have put in 90 tomato plants: Amish paste, Romas, Robeson, Carolina Gold, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifters, Brandywine, Celebrity, Celebration, Early Girl, Sweet 100's & Honey Bunch; eggplant, purple and striped, sweet peppers (green to red) Red Beauties and Galileo, mixed hot peppers, mixed bell peppers, cherry bombs; carrots, Blue Lake beans, Gourmet green beans . . .more waiting to be planted.  Just as I finished putting in the tray of carrots, it began to rain.  Made it to the house before the skies opened up:DOWNPOUR!

Now the sun is shining. . . .

Getting Back to Poetry Readings:

Went to the Genesee Reading Series on Tuesday evening at Writers & Books and thoroughly enjoyed listening to Poets Bart White and Paulette Swartzfager.  They decided to share the reading, sitting side by side, each reading a poem that would let the other select a poem in response or not.  it was fabulous.  Both of them, Southerners, who are gifted storytellers.  What's not to love?  The evening's reading was on wing.  Loved every minute of it.

On Writing:

I seem to be writing every morning, mostly 100 word stories; yet, there have been a few poems too.
I think I'm settling into a summer work routine.  I really need to  work on my novella.  I haven't really returned to that, but I will.  Perhaps as soon as the gardens are planted.

I have been reading The Great Gatsby in preparation for the Brockport Seymour Library Book Discussion on June 28th.  I think I'm in good shape for this. It's funny, I am seeing so much in this reading, more than ever before.  I wonder if it's happening to the other readers too.


I have several poetry books that I am writing reviews for.  Still trying to finish looking at a manuscript I was given literally months ago.  I'm nearly done.

Can you believe we're nearly through June?  How is it possible?

Soon, summer! Enjoy!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Blueline, SUNY Potsdam Literary Review, 2017

  Just released review of Small Worlds Floating~
 Blueline, SUNY Potsdam Literary Review, 2017

Small Worlds Floating. M.J. Iuppa. Cincinnati, OH: Cherry Grove Collections, 2016.
Reviewed by Nancy Berbrich

“Why do I only get one lifetime? Where did this lifetime go?” asked Margaret Atwood in March this year when she accepted a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle. She is not alone in her dismay. All but the very young think about the shortness of life from time to time. M.J.Iuppa explores this very human push of life and pull of death in her 2016 poetry collection Small Worlds Floating.
The book begins with the poem, “Early morning sky, brimming effervesce, eager,” where Iuppa introduces the reader to the major theme running throughout her book. She writes,

                                             I stare at myself
in the picture window’s reflection, slightly
startled by the ghost of me rising
in its slippery surface.

  Here she is slightly startled, bumping up against her ghost.  I’ve seen my own distorted image in that
  glass, and have turned away, trying to ignore it. However, this poet stares at it, captures the moment,  
  the surprise of it, and compels me to look again. Later in the book, her mortality grows more 
  palpable.   In “Beneath the Black Willow” the poet writes,

Amazing, amazed
we look hard at each other,
at our age
What year is it?

We stare at each other
a swell of sound, cresting
What year is it?
And, in “This Upheaval of Light,” we experience again the startling way that mortality sneaks up on us,
So we pause dumbstruck by
the hour, like dapple gray horses

…we can’t
believe that this is as short lived
as we are—small motions—

leaves trembling.

In this collection of more than sixty lyric poems, Iuppa brings to bear her adept use of the poet’s techniques and her keen poet’s eye. The cycle of life is everywhere. In this passage from “Eternity,” we see the poet’s tools and talent at work as she brings images alive embodying the theme in an observation of nature and its landscape:

The blistered barn door creaked open a crack
and blue wasps, with dabs of mud in their mouths,
repaired the tombs found under eaves.

I smelled bitterness of basil gone to seed—
watched the ether of dark clouds crown
in tender offering—wondered if this could be it. 

She uses allusion to deepen and layer meaning into her poems. These lines from “Looking Back”
loud as the brass sun breaking
through the sky’s old plaster, light
falling like glitter, sparkling

 remind me of lines from Robert Frost’s “Birches”:

Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.

The idea of the swinging pull toward death then back toward life then back toward death is apparent in both Frost’s poem as well as Iuppa’s collection. And, I couldn’t help but notice how the poet describes the look of a child waiting at a bus stop in “To the small child holding a balloon.”
a beat, making the balloon bob

in punctuation above your head,
marking the spot where you are,
with strangers wanting to go home.

This reminded me of how the delightfully experimental Kurt Vonnegut put an asterisk before the name of a character who would die before sundown in his 1985 novel, Galápagos.
Insomnia, thoughts of those who have passed on before, and even the yearning for death as a beautiful rest are addressed in these poems. All are part of coming to terms with our own looming mortality. Then there is the regret at the so many things that must be left undone. Iuppa articulates it in “Awakened, hours before dawn, rain”:

Nightmares flower
in the glacial dark.

Nothing put away,
or finished—the corner

She expresses similar feelings in these lines from “Interview”:

I wanted to improve what I say
I can see—the last days of winter,
nearly gone in the precision of rain—

Fittingly, “Interview” concludes this fine collection: as Iuppa explains in the poem, “I work by memory / and struggle to perfect a story / beneath a calm surface.” In the hands of a lesser poet, these moments, these poems could be maudlin, even depressing. But I feel like this poet has put her arm around me and helped me look and see. She has left me “leaning forward open-eyed.”

Saturday, June 3, 2017

It's Saturday . . .Much to do . . .


On June 1st, I went to Seymour Library in Brockport, and  picked out a new novel: Running by Cara Hoffman.

The Book Discussion on June 28th, 11-12, will feature The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.   I found my copy, and have begun reading. I seem to read this novel every two years. I have wanted to be in a book club for a long time now.  Maybe summertime is the perfect time to join a group.

Since the end of the Spring 2017 semester, I have been trying to switch gears to a work schedule that is strictly my own. Some days, I'm inspired; other days, I'm distracted.
However, I have been writing.  Mostly 100 word stories ( my latest addiction) and several CNF essays, of varying length, and a fistful of poems.  Mid-May, I returned to my novella, and was surprised by how fluent it is.  I asked my son Nick to read a bit, and he grew very quiet, quieter than usual.  I said, "What do you think?" and he said, "Your writing makes me want to steal some of these lines. I can "see" what's happening."  I was thrilled by his immediate reaction. I actually "see" this novella as a film. So, this summer is the summer I get it ready to be sent off to publishers.  I'm making plans.


For the past week, I have been lifting, bending, raking, pulling, reaching, digging . . .
My body is just "thrilled" by all of this movement.  Yes, I found  500 new-to-me
muscles. Flower gardens are in good shape, save one garden that is a total mess, and may have to be taken apart completely. We'll see. We're three weeks behind on the vegetable gardens.  Hoping to get things going in the North garden this weekend. Again, we'll see. More rain in the forecast.



Thursday, June 1, 2017

June 1st: The Sun is a Bright Pearl . . .

June 1st. The sun, the sun, the sun

photo K. Iuppa

Here we are on the brink of summer.  So much is changing, and for good reason. I'm ready to imagine
everything a little bit different.  Have started two writing projects and a major get rid of the clutter project. Received advice from my friend Pat Mannix on how to begin to downsize, and so I have begun to do as she advised.  Yesterday, I delivered two boxes full of books to Good Will.  I'm sure they will be loved by someone new.

At the Good Will, they ask you to fill out a form on their computer for your receipt. The men who were working the back ( it was a parade of cars full of bagged stuff), looked at my white hair and me squinting at the computer screen, and thought I was a lost cause, and offered to help me.  "No, no-- I got this.  I'm just trying to see the screen . . ."  Clickety-click, I'm now in the Good Will system.

Yesterday, I cleared out one flower garden. I do love the physical work, but  my initial agility is comical.  The way I walk, with tools in each hands resembles Frankenstein. It makes me laugh-- how ungainly I am at this point of the season.  Thankfully, I improve as the work becomes daily activity.

Change is on the horizon  . . .  I'm excited for the possibilities.