Visiting Angélique

Relaxing, letting the novel take care of itself for a few days…

You might take some time to visit (as I did) the web site of writer Angélique Jamail, if for no other reason that to have your breath taken away by a smile and a frank stare as captured by the lens of Lauren Volness. I love black-and-white photography, I love its textures, I love its air of verité, and I love the way it makes me digress from the matter in hand.

I also love web sites that are clean but at the same time fill and delight the eye. There is something about dark red papyrus font on faded yellow, there is something about the empty, brown sidebars, there is something about the fussy, intrusive design of leaves that says ‘some is plenty’. The internal detail is personal and informal, yet to the point. It can sometimes be intriguing – “What’s the tab which says ‘RRFP’?” I asked myself. Apparently it has something to do with black and white, and a single accent of red, and if you want to know more, then visit. You will want to hear her poetry…

Gypsies, ‘… a loosely plot-driven collection of poems about jumping off from traditional toeholds and clinging to the air around you until you find a new niche.’

Barefoot on Marble, ‘orphan poetry, mermaid lit., and the poet’s impressions as more eras end.  These are lizards and prophets crawling up your house; these are lovers better left unmet; these are moments of great undoing; these are phoenixes, too.’

… and you will ache because none of it is there. But hurry, there is still time to buy a book!

There is a link to her blog, ‘Sappho’s Torque’, which is a different kettle of tuna altogether. It’s a blog, an honest-to-God blog, an it-does-exactly-what-it-says-on-the-tin blog, and that’s why I like it so much.

Have you ever come across poetry that you wish you had written, simply because it sits a camera on the sideboard of life, runs to the other side of the room, stands there, and grins? Have you ever come across poetry which, far from making you wish you had written it, makes you vividly almost painfully aware that you could not ever have had the precise experience of life to have written it? The following poem is one of the latter.

Recipe for My Daughter
Copyright © 2011 by Angélique Jamail

When the pita dough does not rise, throw it away,
remembering that yeast and flour are cheap,
and start over again on a day without rain.

When you become seven years old, you will be given
a new pair of tiny scissors, with which you will snip
the leaves from ten bunches of parsley, taking care

to keep the stems from the great silver bowl,
while your mother chops the tomatoes and onions.
When you manage this despite the nauseating

abundance of parsley, you will be allowed
to mix in the bourghoul. When you hollow out
the yellow squash, measure the tender rind so

your fingernail does not puncture the tiny gourd.
When you roll the grapeleaves, count twenty
per guest, and remember a pinky’s length of lamb
and rice is plenty. When you boil them

in the enormous pot, lay a dinner plate
on top so that the roiling does not unroll
your tightly wound creations.

When you learn to make bat’lawa, be careful
to paint the melted butter across every thin sheet
of filo separately. When you grind the pistachios,

try not to scrape your knuckles on the glass
each time you crank the lever around.

When the bread finally rises, you will sit upon
a wooden chair in front of the lower oven and announce
its brief inflation as if every puffed-up loaf were
the messiah. When it comes out of the upper oven,

flat again with a pocket, spread butter and grape jelly
on it and eat it so hot. When you are an adult,
you will remember this smell as joy.

When you have become good enough,
you will not have to measure anything ever again.

When you grind the lamb for kibbe, reserve some
to sautée with pine nuts for the hashwe, and run the rest
through the grinder twice more with onions and
bourghoul. When you have a craving for kibbe niya,

make it yourself and eat it the same day home from
the butcher, and bless the dish before you pour the olive oil,
because raw meat is not a thing to trust to just anyone.

When your son brings home an American girlfriend, admonish
his brothers for slopping it out in galoptious mounds
at her first dinner with the family.

When your daughter-in-law first opens her home to you,
bring her a great silver bowl, a new embroidered cloth,
a carton of sea salt, and a bulbous

witch doll to hang over her sink. When you take
the lemony, warm spinach pies to school for lunch,
you will not have to share them with the other children,

and one day you will appreciate having had them all to yourself.