Friday, April 24, 2020

FOLLOW THE RECIPE: Poems about Imagination, Celebration, and Cake by Marilyn Singer

words by Marilyn Singer,
art by Marjorie Priceman
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Christie at Wondering and Wandering for Roundup. Is it really the last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month? How did this happen? Sigh.

I'm delighted today to welcome Marilyn Singer to Live Your Poem to talk about her (delicious!) new book.  As is my tradition for author interviews, I've provided Marilyn with four simple prompts. Take it away, Marilyn!

The delicious:

MS: As you might guess, a book entitled Follow the Recipe: Poems about Imagination, Celebration, and Cake (Dial, 2020) was inspired by the delicious. My husband, Steve Aronson, and I were in a restaurant in Howard Beach, NY. We’d just had a delightful time birdwatching at Jamaica Bay, and we were ready for a good meal. At an Italian restaurant, we ordered a dish we’d never had before—pasta e piselli, a simple and yummy combination of pasta and peas. While we were eating, an interesting idea struck me. I said to Steve, “Hmm, I wonder if a book of poems about recipes would work? Not just food recipes, but other kinds of recipes?” Steve knows that such ideas are dangerous—once they take hold, I can’t stop myself from doing something with them. That one took hold fast! The first poem I wrote was “recipe for patience” and it is about shelling peas.

At yet another delicious lunch, I mentioned the concept to my editor, Lucia Monfried, and she loved it. I wrote a bunch more poems and she accepted the manuscript. But she wanted more poems…which perhaps leads to the difficult…

The difficult:

MS: I’d already written a lot of poems and I wasn’t sure I had it in me to write more—and, I mean, like six or so more. But after some relaxation and refreshment (some of Steve’s good cooking—he’s the main chef in our house), I did write more. All of the poems in the book include mentions of food, sometimes metaphorically. Lucia suggested that they go from concrete to more abstract. So they start with “recipe for a good recipe” through poems such as “recipe for a poem” and end with “recipe for celebration.”
One of the poems is a reverso, a form I created for Mirror Mirror (Dutton, 2010), illustrated by Josée Masse. It’s a poem with two halves. You read the first half down, then the same lines in reverse order, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization, and each half says something different. In Follow the Recipe, my reverso is a recipe for science.

Another difficult thing was finding the right illustrator for the book. It definitely took a while. But then Lucia suggested Marjorie Priceman, and I was thrilled. I love her work and I love what she did with our book. She used collages to make it seem like an old beloved book of recipes, perhaps one passed down among generations. I think it’s fabulous!

It also took us a while to come up with the title—and it usually does. LOL!
More Marilyn responses below! But first... please enjoy this poem from the book (posted with permission from the publisher):
words by Marilyn Singer, art by Marjorie Priceman
Recipe for Endurance

Think of a time before blenders and mixers,
electric fixers.

Think of a time before microwaves, stoves,
when their wasn't sliced bread, only freshly baked loaves.

Keep stirring the pot.

Picture the chance to strengthen a limb
without going to Gym.

Think of porridge or pudding or maybe risotto
back in the day and use this as your motto.

Lots of things change. Some do not.
Think of endurance - you still need it a lot.
And keep stirring the pot.

- Marilyn Singer
The unexpected:

MS: I think pretty much any idea for a book is unexpected. It’s one of the surprises of being a writer. Some ideas don’t turn into full manuscripts. Some manuscripts don’t turn into books. When they do, it’s definitely an unexpected delight. And if they actually sell a lot of copies, that’s really unexpected. Heh.

Anything else:

MS: I hope people will enjoy the book and perhaps try writing their own recipe poems on a variety of topics. I also hope everyone will enjoy some cake—as well as sharing it together, in the near future.

Thank you, Marilyn, for visiting today!

Readers, please check out this book. And maybe write a recipe poem??? That's what I did. :) It was inspired by a friend who sent me a (Montana) sunset poem earlier this week to cheer me up on after a sad day. So much thoughtfulness in the world right now... I'm so so grateful. Truly, it's been tough. We'll get through it... we will, we will!

Recipe for a Sunset

and more sky

or beach


a hand to hold
maybe a dog

all the colors

a place
to be still

to lean
into the world


- Irene Latham


  1. I'm swooning over here! Enjoyed hearing from Marilyn about her new book (I have it on reserve at the library but since the library is closed . . . ). Recipe poems are my favorite!

    Your sunset poem is beautiful; feels a little wistful too.

  2. Oh, I must get MS’ book! I’ve been fascinated with recipes lately and the history behind them. I’ve been writing recipes into some of my poems. I did this for today. Your recipe for a sunset is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Goodie, goodie, goodie! I just got this book and have fallen in love with it. I was hoping, hoping, hoping for an interview with Marilyn to find out more about the background. My bucket list literally includes spending time with Marilyn Singer writing reversos. I love her invented form and play with it quite a bit. This book is wonderful. And, it appeals to my love of collage also. Thank you for this sweet treat today.
    PS: sometimes authors like being tagged in social media...sometimes they don't. I never know which. I did tag you in a humorous tweet today. We had a poetry pandemonium tie for over 24 hours amongst my school students & teachers. What was the tie? Favorite use of metaphor in a poem...Your 'See the Elephant' v. Emily Dickinson's 'Hope is a Thing with Feathers.' I LOVE that the voting went back and forth and so much thought was put into metaphor...and poems! You are in league with Emily Dickinson, at least with all the cool kids at my school. xoxo

  4. I haven't seen this book by Marilyn yet. I have quite a collection of her books. The interview is wonderful. Helps me see that no matter who you are, the process is filled with both delights and challenges. Your recipe poem invites me to a sunset and try writing one. Thanks for always inspiring me.

  5. I have the book ordered, too, & as you know, my Indie is getting so many orders that it will take a while, but now I want it even more. One grandmother made an enormous batch of what she called 'leppe' cookies (spicy molasses I think). It was in a big pot & with stiff dough, hard to stir. I remember we all had a turn, but my grandfather's strong arms were really needed. I know they both would love Marilyn's poem, "Recipe for Endurance". Stirring the poet metaphorically is what I know we are all doing, right? Stay strong! And your sunset picture inspired such a beautiful poem, Irene. I love "lean into the world together". Happy weekend to you!

  6. Irene: Wonderful post, great idea for poems. I love yours, I want to learn to write poems with a spare profile, as you used here so beautifully. Thank you for this wonderful post. Best wishes to you as we all go through some difficult days.

  7. Irene, your post is so soothing tonight. First of all, I love how Marilyn always tackles interesting projects. Her book especially resonates with me who has recipes passed down from my Nonnie. Endurance she had and lived a life cooking and baking for her family most of the time. Your recipe poem is just lovely and I was wondering if you would be willing to offer it to my #NatureNurtures2020 Gallery. It would fit the theme so well, if you are interested. (PS:I added your beautiful Live Your Poem postcard to today's PF post.-Thank you for thinking of me.)

  8. Your "Recipe for a Sunset" offers us such a warm and loving
    to be still

    to lean
    into the world


    Wonderful poem to calmly end the week–and gorgeous Diego Rivera painting, I haven't seen this one, so magical. Thanks also for sharing Marilyn's "Follow the Recipe" poem book. "Endurance" is such a filling and satisfying poem, and the art and poem work seamlessly together. Sending hugs sprinkled with sunshine and twinkled with stars * * *, xo

  9. I admire Marilyn Singers work so much. And your poem is the perfect 'recipe' for today. " a hand to hold
    maybe a dog" - yes! :)

  10. What a fabulous post! I'm a big fan of Marilyn Singer, and my students adore her reversos. This new book looks wonderful, and I love the versatility of recipe poems. Your sunset poem made me teary--for your sorrow and the love of the friend who sent you the inspiring photo--for all that it says about companionship, beauty, and endings. I especially love, "all the colors/singing."

  11. Oh my, do I want to nibble each poem in this book slowly to savor or gobble it down in great big gulps? Yum! Maybe both. Thank you for the interview with Marilyn and the peek into her new book. Now I'm off to try a recipe poem! You've inspired me with your lovely sunset recipe.


Your thoughts?