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sitting down with kelly fineman

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

        "Tea with Rosebuds in Romantic Cup" by Michael Paul.
         (Available as a print here.)

You're just in time for a cup of tea!

Now, if I said, "Jane Austen," "poetic forms," "dead white poets" and garden gnomes, whom would you think of?

Kelly Fineman of course! Like me, you're probably a fan of Writing and Ruminating, where Kelly displays her literary brilliance on a daily basis. For almost three years, I've been reading her amazing blog and I'm not bragging one bit when I say that as a result I'm much smarter ☺. *basks in newfound intelligence*

When it comes to poetry, Kelly knows her stuff. When she features a poem, there's usually a detailed explication, a bit of backstory, personal notes, even illuminating digression. Yes, Kelly loves to digress . . .

For the Potluck, she sent a sonnet about her grandfather's chair. It was prompted by a weekly writing exercise she did with her writing partner, Angela De Groot. They were to begin with, "His chair . . . "

Kelly: The chairs in my dining room belonged to my grandparents, and his chair still sits at the head of the table every night. Interestingly, hubby prefers an armless chair, so it's as if my grandfather has his own place still, even though he died about 25 years ago.

Grandfather's Chair © 2010 Kelly Fineman.


His chair -- the one he sat in when he ate --
Remains his chair a quarter century
After he died, though nobody but me
Realizes this is true; at any rate,
My husband and children, who came too late
Into my life, have no idea that he
Is present at our meals each night as we
Inhabit lesser chairs. No empty plate
Is set (as if Elijah might attend --
It strikes me that St. Paul's a better choice)
I'm certain that they could not comprehend
How large his presence was -- more than his voice
Could fill a room -- his laugh, even his breath,
Live in my memory long past his death.

© 2010 Kelly R. Fineman. All rights reserved.

What a lovely reflection! I like imagining Kelly with this private thought as she sits for dinner. Aren't family heirlooms fascinating? Her sonnet reminded me of visiting Jane Austen's home in Chawton. Interestingly enough, the chairs in the dining room were also "lesser chairs" -- four women sat at this table: Jane, her sister, Cassandra, Jane's mother, and their long-time family friend, Martha Lloyd. Talk about a large presence filling a room! I can just picture Kelly sitting at the table with these ladies and chatting about the events of the day. Kelly, if you could ask Jane just one question, what would it be?

 Chawton dining room by teresue.

Speaking of tables and chairs, can you believe Austen revised and/or wrote all six of her major novels while sitting at this tiny table in the front sitting room? But I digress . . . 

 Austen writing table and chair by sarah ♦ brown.

Now, we must have something to go with our tea. Kelly offers a recipe which she calls "loosey-goosey" because she made it up herself. The addition of chocolate chips is quite fitting, since Jane liked chocolate for breakfast.


© 2010 Kelly Fineman.

For one loaf:

2-3 mashed bananas (I just chuck them into my Kitchen Aid stand mixer to start)

Blend with:

1/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. milk
1/4 c. oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg


2 c. flour
2-1/4 tsp. baking powder
2/3 c. chocolate chips

Put into greased bread pan (the spray with flour in it is magic). Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes.

Recipe can easily be doubled. Tripling it is, however, a mistake.

*I've never had chocolate chips in banana bread before. Yum. I might take to wearing empire-waisted dresses, bonnets, and silk stockings as a result. Thanks, Kelly!


Kelly R. Fineman is a children's author and poet whose work has appeared in Summer Shorts (Blooming Tree Press, 2006), Write Your Own Poetry (Compass Point Books, 2008), and several magazines, including Highlights for Children, Kid Magazine Writers, and Up & Under. Recently, she placed third in the Writer's Digest Poetry Contest, and every year, she serves as Poetry Coordinator for the Cybils Awards. Besides Writing and Ruminating, Kelly blogs at I.N.K. and Guys Lit Wire.

She's currently working on a verse biography of Jane Austen, several picture books, and a chapter book called Garden Gnomes Gone Wild, which may very well become a very wild series. For National Poetry Month, she's "Building a Poetry Collection" with inter-related classic poems, and this June she'll be reprising her popular "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" series (she also posts a Shakespeare poem every Wednesday). I had the pleasure of meeting this Poetry Princess last summer, and can attest to her civility, refinement, and general adorableness (accentuated by her cool professorial eyewear). We both love British accents, good tea, and the sight of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in a wet shirt.
More Poetry Potluck posts here.

Soup-making gnome by C. Lynn Steele.

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


( 58 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 26th, 2010 11:31 am (UTC)
tanita says :)
What a beautiful poem! I especially love the final lines, and the idea of grandfather inhabiting the room, overlooking the scene, past death, ever observant of even those who arrived to late in life to know him. Gorgeous.

You *must* try chocolate in your banana bread. YUM. And I laugh at the warning against tripling the recipe. It's usually a bad idea to make three loaves of anything containing chocolate; you've just given yourself an additional excuse to eat a whole loaf...
Apr. 26th, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)
Re: tanita says :)
Indeed a gorgeous, beautiful poem. Seems I've been missing out on chocolate in banana bread all this time -- while the rest of the world was hip to it. Okay -- 2 loaves coming up!
Re: tanita says :) - kellyrfineman - Apr. 26th, 2010 02:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2010 11:37 am (UTC)
Those are some chairs! And that's some poem. And my cereal is looking pretty plain. Maybe I'll get out the nice china for my tea.

I can just see Kelly at the table. Thank you, ladies!
Apr. 26th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
You definitely must get out the nice china for your tea! In fact, you should keep it out all week to celebrate Borrowed Names. :)
(no subject) - kellyrfineman - Apr. 26th, 2010 04:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kristydempsey - Apr. 27th, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kellyrfineman - Apr. 27th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2010 12:48 pm (UTC)
Beautiful poem. Made me miss my dad... :)
Apr. 26th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
My grandmother had a favorite chair -- not a dining room chair, but an armchair where she sat all the time and watched soap operas. It was like a queen's throne :).
(no subject) - kellyrfineman - Apr. 26th, 2010 02:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jamarattigan - Apr. 26th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kellyrfineman - Apr. 26th, 2010 04:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC)

Apr. 26th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
:) Please, have another cup of tea!
(no subject) - kellyrfineman - Apr. 26th, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2010 01:27 pm (UTC)
Kelly is a goddess. She's so brilliant she intimidates me, even though she's one of the nicest people ever.

And that poem is beautiful. Really made me tear up.

I am a big fan of chocolate chip banana bread myself. It just ain't right if chocolate chips aren't included.

Apr. 26th, 2010 01:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the kind words about me and my poem, Jules. You're such a sweetheart!
(no subject) - jamarattigan - Apr. 26th, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC)
Kelly, I didn't know you won third place in the WD poetry contest. Congrats! In your sonnet, I love how you break the thought mid-line. It makes the thought process flow naturally by disguising the sonnet end-rhymes.

Chairs can "belong" to people. I have felt that way and so does my mother (even if, in her case, it's subconsciously). She, too, can't make herself sit in what used to be my grandfather's chair, although she's had my grandparents' dining room set since 1974. My father couldn't sit there; my stepfather couldn't sit there; when we visit her in her condo we all sit in the side chairs.
Apr. 26th, 2010 02:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the congrats and comments on my poem, Barb.

My brother is in possession of my grandfather's other chair - the one he sat in to watch TV.
(no subject) - jamarattigan - Apr. 26th, 2010 02:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC)
Apr. 26th, 2010 02:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Lisa. *swooning over Colin Firth userpic*
(no subject) - kellyrfineman - Apr. 26th, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jamarattigan - Apr. 26th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you, dear Jama, for such a lovely post! Can you believe my brother still hasn't sent me any scans of photos of my grandfather? At least, thanks to you, I remembered to ask for them at all!
Apr. 26th, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
Thank YOU, Kelly, for gracing the Potluck with your poem and recipe. It all worked out in the end; I think now we all have our own images of what your grandfather looked like in our minds. And of course, your poem brings back memories of our loved ones and the things that once (and still) belonged to them.
Apr. 26th, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
This poem is so beautiful -- I could really picture the type of man who might have sat in that chair -- and I loved knowing that it began with the words "his chair." This post ranks among my very favorites of the month, too -- loved the photos from Jane Austen's home, especially. Thank you both for sharing!
Apr. 26th, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for the kind words! My grandfather was quite a guy - larger than life, really, for most of his life.
(no subject) - jamarattigan - Apr. 26th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
Mmmm, I LOVE the combination of bananas and chocolate. I'm going to make this bread the next time I make banana bread!!

Thanks for the lovely poem and recipe, Kelly! And for the beautiful post, as always, Jama!!
Apr. 26th, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
Use the recipe in good health, Lisa! (A confession: when I made the loaves in the photo, I accidentally forgot to use the eggs called for in the recipe! It was still edible, just a different mouth-feel than usual.)
(no subject) - jamarattigan - Apr. 26th, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2010 04:06 pm (UTC)
Now, THERE'S a Tea Party...
This Mad Hatter would love to attend!

Kelly and Jama!

Apr. 26th, 2010 04:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Now, THERE'S a Tea Party...
*pictures Slatts as the Hatter*
Re: Now, THERE'S a Tea Party... - jamarattigan - Apr. 26th, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Plus, we need you to play us some music :).... - slatts - Apr. 26th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
Kelly's poem almost made me cry. I was reading it out loud and my voice cracked at the end . . .

I've had banana bread with chocolate chips! It's yummy. :o)

Apr. 26th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Tarie, for the kind words about my poem. Hugs to you - and have some tea!
Apr. 26th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
You really put on a beautiful spread! Thank you for sharing.
Apr. 26th, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
Nice to have you join us for tea, Tracy :)!
Apr. 26th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC)
I love it that no one knows but Kelly that the chair is occupied. I have odd conversations with inanimate objects at times---it's like they contain a piece of the person that used to hold them, and Kelly's sonnet only confirms it!

I've had chocolate pumpkin tea loaf; now to make chocolate banana bread.
Apr. 26th, 2010 08:08 pm (UTC)
Chocolate pumpkin tea loaf? Where is this to be found? Sounds yummy!

I am a bit of a collector - I have objects that belonged to my grandparents, and touching or using them seems to establish contact, even though they've crossed over to the other side. Like the depression glass bowl that was my grandmother's, and which she used for fruit salad, puddings and jello (so I do too!) Or the wine glasses that belonged to my other grandmother, and the story that goes with them about a time when she and my grandfather were young and happy and in love. (He had a nervous breakdown before I was born, and was never that happy in my memory, but I love that he brought those glasses home for her once upon a time.)
(no subject) - saralholmes - Apr. 26th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kellyrfineman - Apr. 27th, 2010 12:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jamarattigan - Apr. 26th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2010 11:58 pm (UTC)
A fitting party for the talented Ms. Fineman!

One thing that's interesting about that poem: the rhyme doesn't hit you over the head, doesn't have a metronomic feel. It flows very naturally.
Apr. 27th, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
*bows gratefully*
Apr. 27th, 2010 01:31 am (UTC)
Literary Brilliance, indeed! I call her blog "The University of Kelly Fineman". Like you, I learn there every time I go (even if what I learn is to never take fencing lessons!).

Can't wait to try the chocolate chip banana bread (or some of that chocolate pumpkin tea loaf that Sara mentioned!!

I don't have many of the *things* of my ancestors (yet), but I do have my Grandmother Clara's bread recipe. I made it yesterday, and felt her hands over mine as I kneaded it...

Great sonnet. I'll keep practicing and aspiring...
Apr. 27th, 2010 03:45 am (UTC)
Thanks for your kind words about my sonnet.

Most of the items I have were given to me while my grandparents were alive - at one point, they each broke up their own house to move in with one of their kids, and some of the larger items were reassigned. But even before that, my grandmothers gave some items away as part of their own desire to pare down - plus it's a good way for them to give affordable gifts AND gain extra space AND give you something that means something to you, whether it's a piece of jewelry or a tea cup or a mirror (I got all of those things as gifts at various times).
(no subject) - jamarattigan - Apr. 27th, 2010 11:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 28th, 2010 11:51 am (UTC)
Elaine Magliaro

Here I am--late again! I can't keep up with reading all the wonderful National Poetry Month posts. Kelly most certainly has a great knowledge of poetry. She is so committed to her blog. I don't know how she finds the time.


Thanks for the lovely sonnet about your grandfather's chair.
Apr. 28th, 2010 12:23 pm (UTC)
I've been having a hard time keeping up, too. It's been a great NPM all around!
(no subject) - kellyrfineman - May. 1st, 2010 02:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 28th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
Love this sonnet! I feel this way about my dad -

"How large his presence was -- more than his voice
Could fill a room -- his laugh, even his breath,"

And I am sure it will go on long after he meets his maker. Lovely chair too. I am going to hold onto that picture of Kelly eating dinner with her family and her grandfather's chair. Warm as sunny wood.

The recipe is making me hungry too...
May. 1st, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Andi, for your lovely words.
( 58 comments — Leave a comment )

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