Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

#15 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2010.

 photo by nobleup.

Why, yes. That would be Jeannine Atkins up there waving to us from atop that airplane. Of all our Potluck guests, Jeannine knows best how to make a dramatic entrance. And she's not fashionably late or anything, which is quite surprising considering she had to travel back in time to bring us the two amazing women who appear in her poem: Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane.

Today, Jeannine is sharing an excerpt from her recently released verse biography, Borrowed Names. You may remember my singing its praises on its official pub day. Since then, it has earned yet another *starred review*, this time from Horn Book! We're absolutely thrilled for this author/poet/professor who dares to defy publishing odds against poetry and historical fiction. Just as Rose Wilder Lane once flew over San Francisco Bay strapped to the wing of an airplane, these days Jeannine Atkins is flying high on well-deserved praise.

I'll let Jeannine tell you all about her poem and recipe:


My new book, Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and their Daughters (Holt) has three parts. I chose a poem about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her only child, Rose, since Jama has written some great posts about the Little House books and their incarnation on television.

This poem is from the end of the section, written as if from the point of view of Rose. She left the Missouri farmhouse to go farther west than Pa Ingalls, her grandfather, ever did – Rose lived for years in California – then toured much of Europe and the Middle East as a journalist. Eventually Rose came back home and typed and rather heavily edited the beloved books Laura wrote by hand into orange-covered notebooks.

Who can discuss any kind of writing without mentioning procrastination? So here’s a take on that, which includes a dessert.

photo by VinciiWincii.


Not Today,

Mama says, There’s too much housework.

Please. Do not get sidetracked

by shirts that need pressing.

There will always be fine grime

on the china on the mantel,

corn to husk, cherries to pit, apples to core.

Ignore them. The dream begun under a tree

is sweeter than stories you tell yourself

over dirty dishes.

Life tempts most away from paper and pen,

but gently bring yourself back.

Who can resist gingerbread

with chocolate frosting,

but do you need to bake it now?         

If you must get out pots and pans,

come back and invite your distractions --

cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg -- onto the page.

~ from Borrowed Names (Henry Holt, 2010), © 2010 Jeannine Atkins. All rights reserved.

photo by stringbot.

I like gingerbread and I like chocolate frosting, but the combination doesn’t make me hungry. I’m more of a cookie person, so sticking with the ginger theme, here’s my favorite recipe for Hermit Cookies. If you happen to raise brown leghorn chickens, as Laura Ingalls Wilder did, please use their eggs. Otherwise, make do. The girl down the hill from us sells eggs under a sign Gwenny’s Hennys, and they’re good, but her dogs are kind of mean to mine (please note, egg entrepreneurs) so I usually buy local at the store.

Jeannine inherited the wooden spoon from her Grandmère.


Preheat oven to 350.

Combine: 3 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon ginger
a few scrapes of fresh nutmeg, or about ¼ teaspoon

Set aside. 

Cream one and a half sticks (3/4 cup) butter or margarine with ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup brown sugar.

Beat in two eggs. 

Add the dry ingredients along with ¼ cup molasses mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water. Mix well and fold in 2 cups of mixed dried fruit and nuts. I like a mix of raisins, apricots, and sliced almonds, since my husband is anti-walnut, which is more traditional. 

Spread the batter in two rows on a greased cookie sheet, shaping into strips about 9 x 4 inches, with a few inches in between as they will spread. Beat an egg, and paint this on top. It will make the cookies shine! 

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes; adjust depending on how soft you want the Hermits. While they’re warm, cut the strips into bars to make about twenty cookies. 

Hermit Cookies unbaked.


Jeannine Atkins is an award-winning author, poet, historian, and educator who teaches Children's Literature at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. In addition to Borrowed Names, she's published numerous  books about other notable girls and women, including  Anne Hutchinson's Way (FSG, 2007), Aani and the Tree Huggers (Lee & Low, 1995), and Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon (FSG, 1995). When not reading, writing, or daydreaming, Jeannine likes to swim, cross-country ski, knit, and spend time with her grown daughter. She blogs at Views from a Window Seat, where every post reads like poetry. We both love tea and cookies, Louisa May Alcott, and Paul McCartney (Jeannine is the only person I'm willing to share him with). You can find recent interviews with Jeannine here and here.  

Thanks for the peek into the past, Jeannine. It looks like it'll take you awhile to get home.

Look what Rose just dropped from the sky:

Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes by Vélez Delights.

More Poetry Potluck posts here.

*Covered wagon by kerch.

**Hermit cookie photos © 2010 Jeannine Atkins. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.



( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 21st, 2010 11:15 am (UTC)
tanita says :)
This post is squee-worthy on a number of levels, not the least of which THE WOMAN IS STANDING ATOP A MYSTERY OF SCIENCE. I really don't believe that planes can fly until they land and I'm elsewhere, so MAN, does Jeannine Atkins has the courage of her scientific convictions!!!! I would STILL be screaming.

And I adore the poem -- lovely. Cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of this lovely, star-studded (WOOT!) and well-praised book. (Thanks for the first heads-up on it, Jama!)

And the recipe!! I was just going to try Hermit Cookies, but the recipe I found just had too much STUFF in it -- (dates? Currants? Raisins? Really?!) this one sounds absolutely PERFECT. (And no, let's not ever put chocolate frosting on gingerbread - no!)

I remember Anne Hutchinson's Way -- and Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon sounds intriguing as well. What a fabulous visit with Jeannine; thank-you, Jama!
Apr. 21st, 2010 11:47 am (UTC)
Re: tanita says :)
She's figuratively flying, Tanita, figuratively. :)

I can't say enough about how much I love Borrowed Names. Though I've enjoyed her other books, I think she's outdone herself with this one. It's like all the planets aligned, everything she did before came to the fore -- and a work of masterful beauty resulted.

I, for one, will try chocolate frosting on gingerbread someday. If it's good enough for Laura, it's good enough for me. There must be something to it.
Apr. 21st, 2010 12:11 pm (UTC)
Okay, this post cements my promise to track down a copy of BORROWED NAMES. What a wonderful poem! The cookies don't look so bad either. :)
Apr. 21st, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)
Borrowed Names is definitely essential reading!
Apr. 21st, 2010 12:29 pm (UTC)
The writing life is always a balancing act, isn't it? We have to be IN life, savoring those gingerbread cupcakes or hermit cookies, but also able to push that away and write, write, and write some more. I love how Jeannine's poem wraps all that together so gently and firmly in: "Who can resist gingerbread with chocolate frosting, but do you need to bake it now?"
Apr. 21st, 2010 02:04 pm (UTC)
Balancing act -- yes, a perfect description. You're also right about Jeannine's ability to gently and firmly present details to make a larger point. She does that throughout. I'm in awe of the power of her understated elegance.
Apr. 21st, 2010 01:03 pm (UTC)
Oh, man. Drool. I might have to actually bake those cookies. Never even *heard* of them till now.

Thanks for the poem. It was still beautiful on the second read.

Apr. 21st, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
I'm sure Blaine would do a good job with them, too. I love cookies with that heavenly combination of spices -- cinnamon, ginger, cloves nutmeg! :9
Apr. 21st, 2010 01:04 pm (UTC)
I love this. Thanks you two!
Apr. 21st, 2010 02:09 pm (UTC)
You're welcome, Jo! :-)
Apr. 21st, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC)
I'm loving BORROWED NAMES!!! YAY for Jeannine!
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)
Excited to hear you're reading it! Hope your unpacking is going well . . .
Apr. 21st, 2010 07:39 pm (UTC)
Great photo and another book to add to my reading list. I read Rose's bio. She was quite a lady.
Apr. 21st, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, Rose did a lot of interesting things in her life! Quite colorful :).
Apr. 21st, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the sweet comments. Jama, I think it was Sarah who said this perfectly, though I may be mixing my poets: you're the hostess who makes us look good. And the picture of gingerbread with chocolate frosting that you posted on Borrowed Names debut day, and your faith in Laura, have made me rethink my resistance. I'm planning to try baking them soon.
Apr. 21st, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear it! Chocolate and gingerbread does sound like a strange combination, to be sure, but maybe we're missing something.

Regarding making you look good -- when I'm given gold to begin with, all I have to do is add a little shine. :)

Thank you again for participating in the potluck!!
Apr. 21st, 2010 08:51 pm (UTC)
Of the poems I've read from BORROWED NAMES so far (I don't have a copy of my own yet, though I bought a copy for my mother), the poems about Rose and Laura are my favorites, because I learn something new from them, every time. I had no idea Rose edited her mother's work. I didn't know that she once rode an airplane on its wing, either. Very excited to read the whole book. Thank you for sharing!
Apr. 21st, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
Laura and Rose's stories will always have a special place in my heart, because the very first article I ever published for children was a piece about Rose for Cobblestone Magazine. It was then that I first learned of her role in making the Little House books happen. The airplane thing was really something -- she really had a lot of gumption!
Apr. 21st, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
I loved this book, too, and as usual you showcase it well!
Apr. 22nd, 2010 11:01 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jenn. Jeannine really did a beautiful job with it, didn't she?
Apr. 22nd, 2010 07:58 am (UTC)
What a wonderful poem for a writer, permission to procrastinate!

I especially love the idea that:

The dream begun under a tree
is sweeter than stories you tell yourself
over dirty dishes.

Thank you Jeannine and Jama.

I am hoarding my copy of this book right now because I want to be able to sit and read and linger with the stories and right now life is too crazy but I am so looking forward to it.
Apr. 22nd, 2010 11:05 am (UTC)
It's fascinating to consider Rose's crucial role in shaping the stories. Most of us have assumed for a long time that Laura worked alone -- but it was actually quite the team effort.
Apr. 23rd, 2010 10:43 am (UTC)
I've never been remotely tempted to jump out of an airplane, but to ride on top of one in a Wonder Woman pose reciting John Gillespie Magee's poem "High Flight" ("Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth/ And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings...") is now on my "bucket list."
Apr. 23rd, 2010 11:12 am (UTC)
LOL! And I can see you doing just that -- you're such a daredevil, Mary Lee. I shall call you Wonder Woman from now on. :)
Apr. 25th, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
Elaine Magliaro

Just lost my last comment somewhere in the ether.

Today, I'm trying to catch up on my National Poetry Month blog reading. I've kept myself really busy writing lately. And yesterday the weather was so lovely--I HAD to get out of the house!


I LOVE the poem you selected for Jama's Poetry Potluck Series. It certainly speaks to me. I often ignore things that I should be doing in order to feed may passion for writing poetry.

My favorite part of your poem:
"come back and invite your distractions --
cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg -- onto the page.'

Just lovely.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

September 2011

All content © 2007-2011 Jama Rattigan. Please do not reproduce in any form without permission. All rights reserved.


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow