Poetry at the Post: Bourbon & Spring Rolls & Refugee Stories

From Mimesis
She said that’s how others Become refugees isn’t it?

aimee1 May 27, 2015
Austin, TX
4:30 am:
Off to catch a flight for Louisville, KY. 
  Spalding MFA Homecoming. A few days of writerly events, visits with fellow alums & bourbon!  

Urban Bourbon Trail with Spalding alums, Slay at Hyatt Regency, Louisville, KY
Urban Bourbon Trail with Spalding alums,
Slay at Hyatt Regency, Louisville, KY

Reflecting back
food fragment
Louisville is more than the epicenter for bourbon and the “Hot Brown” but also a bit of a foodie destination. (I’m not the first to have made that discovery. In 2014, Saveur magazine credited Louisville as “Notable” in the Best Culinary Destination category for cities with populations under 800,000.)
In fact, during my visit, food (and, bourbon, of course) began to take up more and mental real estate.
mujadarah at Safier Mediterranean Deli, black pepper chèvre & green tomato jam at Harvest, lobster mac and cheese at  Brown Hotel lobby bar..
One of the writerly highlights of the week was meeting Aimee Zaring, fellow alum and author of Flavors from Home: Refugees in Kentucky Share Their Stories and Comfort Foods.

Aimee Zaring, author of Flavors from Home
Aimee Zaring, author of Flavors from Home

Flavors from Home is a story board of refugee experiences laced with recipes tried and tested by Aimee.
“In Flavors from Home, Aimee Zaring has crafted not just a book of delicious recipes, but a beautiful meditation on exile, place, and cultural identity. The moving stories of these cooks and their recipes are a feast for the spirit.”―Jason Howard, author of A Few Honest Words.

Coco Tran in her Roots & Soy Kitchen  photo from Flavors from Home
Coco Tran in her Roots & Soy Kitchen
photo from Flavors from Home

23 refugees, 42 recipes and 13 countries—from Bhutan to Cuba and Rwanda to Iran. This is a not-to-be-missed read-not only for Aimee’s insights into the realities of the refugee experience but also for the opportunity to escape the rut of the same-ole-same-ole dishes every week and try something new. I know I need to do that—maybe replace that tired pasta dish with…hmmm…spring rolls, anyone?

Coco's Spring Rolls photo from Flavors from Home
Coco’s Spring Rolls
photo from Flavors from Home

If  you happen to find yourself in Kentucky over the next couple of months, you can find Aimee at the following events:

Fri., August 21: Homegrown Art, Music, and Spoken Word Show, Cedar Grove Coffee House, Shepherdsville, KY. Reading and Book Sales/Signing. 6-8 p.m.

Sat-Mon, Sept. 5th-7th: WorldFest on the Belvedere (in Global Village appearing with Global Commons booth) Lou, KY.

Sat., Sept. 12: St. Francis of Assisi Parish Hall, Louisville. Reading and Book Sales/Signing. Featured refugee guests and ethnic food samples. Donations

welcome. 7:00-8:30 p.m. Thurs., Sept. 17: Catholic Charities Annual Fundraiser “Celebration of Spirit and Success,” Crown Plaza Hotel, 830 Phillips Lane, Louisville. Book Sales and Signing, 6-9 p.m.

Poetry at the Post: In Memory of Quiet Days

Advice to a Young Prophet

Keep away, son, these lakes are salt. These flowers
Eat insects. Here private lunatics
Yell and skip in a very dry country.

Dish on Market Louisville, KY
Dish on Market
Louisville, KY

Downtown Louisville is far from being a “dry country.” Instead, it is wet, very wet indeed especially on the urban bourbon trail. I know from experience. I took my virgin #urbanbourbon trip last Thursday afternoon with a group of fellow writers. My rating: 4-star1

I’d would have given it a 5 star but one of the bartenders had an angry air. Fortunately, at every other place, the bartenders were super professional and friendly–especially at our final stop at Dish on Market. 

Plaque in Louisville, KY
Plaque in Louisville, KY

Or where some haywire monument
Some badfaced daddy of fear
Commands an unintelligent rite.

In a fuzzy haze, I was walking back to the Brown Hotel and ran into this plaque to Thomas Merton. Had I wondered around a bit more I would have discovered another Thomas Merton plaque, the one that celebrates “a mystical experience — one that happened to the monk Thomas Merton on March 18, 1958:

‘In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers….There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.’


Poetry at the Post: Should I Get an MFA?

I might as well begin by saying how much I like the title.
It gets me right away because I’m in a workshop now

Poetry Workshop outside Galway, Ireland Photo: Maria Hofman
Poetry Workshop outside Galway, Ireland Photo: Maria Hofman

Now that I have an MFA in Creative Writing, writer friends have asked, “Should I get one too?”

Well, I can’t answer that question as getting an MFA is a personal decision based on one’s objectives, needs—and financial resources. But—if you have already decided to take the plunge and commit yourself to 2-4 years of demanding work then Spalding University’s MFA program may be the one for you.

But what I’m not sure about is the voice,
which sounds in places very casual, very blue jeans,…

One of the reasons you may not have applied to an MFA program yet is that you are nervous about the “workshop experience.” I know I was but  “Serious critique doesn’t have to hurt. At Spalding University, you’ll find a top-tier low residency MFA program that celebrates creativity and community, not competition. The program offers real intellectual stimulation in a supportive environment while giving writers the tools to make writing fresher, richer, more uniquely their own. There’s no such thing as a “Spalding voice.” It’s your voice, and at Spalding, it will be heard and read.”

Four years ago I became a member of the Spalding MFA family— a very large family indeed! Not only am I now connected to all of the incredibly talented and caring staff, faculty and fellow students but also to an alumni group over 500 writers strong. In addition, because I elected to do my residencies abroad, I have poet/writer friends around the world—and one of them is currently translating a selection of my poems into Bulgarian!

Poets in Paris Photo courtesy of Stephen Woodward
Poets in Paris Photo courtesy of Stephen Woodward

Residencies abroad? Yes! For me, a global nomad, this was a compelling reason to consider a Spalding MFA.  At Spalding, you have the choice to attend your residencies in Louisville, Ky or abroad—or do a combo of the two. During my years at Spalding, I traveled to Rome, Tuscany, Paris, Dublin, Galway, Prague and Berlin. I actually graduated in Berlin! How cool is that?

Graduating class Summer 2014 Spalding MFA in Writing. A biergarten in Dresden, Germany Photo courtesy of  Karen Chronister
Graduating class Summer 2014 Spalding MFA in Writing. A biergarten in Dresden, Germany Photo courtesy of Karen Chronister

But the best part is that in actuality you never really graduate as you can continue to connect with the Spalding family with opportunities for post graduate study, homecoming in Louisville,  and even travels with the program as an alumn.

In 2015, Spalding’s summer residency will be in Athens and Crete, Greece.

So-what are you waiting for?

The application deadline for spring and summer is February 1. Holy Ouzo! Get that application started today!

You can email: mfa@spalding.edu for more information. Or contact me at alicecatherinej@gmail.com.

You never know—we may meet up this summer in Greece. I hope so! First ouzo is on me!

But then there’s that last stanza, my favorite.
This is where the poem wins me back,

Poetry at the Post, Day 11: “Contempt” by Elfriede Jelinek

“Contempt” by Elfriede Jelinek, as translated by Michael Hoffman

Panoramic on the Alps Austria 3 July 2009 Photo courtesy of Friedrich Böhringer  under CC Share Alike 2.5 License
Panoramic on the Alps
3 July 2009
Photo courtesy of Friedrich Böhringer under CC Share Alike 2.5 License

my puppet-strings are the
sweet decaying lamps I flutter around.

Two of my besties from Spalding University will meet me in Budapest later this month. We’ll be traveling on to Vienna for a mini trip before we meet up with the rest of our program in Prague. In celebration of our upcoming trip—and out MFA graduation in Berlin, I decided to read an Austrian poet this morning. #lateantiquitystudiesbudapest2014 #threemfagradsonthetraintowien

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004, Jelinek is a controversial writer, mainly due to her political activism, strong feminist stance, & affiliation with the Communist Party—all of which are important to her work. As Jelinek suffers from agoraphobia, she did not attend the Nobel Prize award ceremony but instead sent this video.


I’m not sure yet what I think about this poem. My take away from this morning’s reading is this:

your stupid silence I will just
toss up in the air.

For me, these words are powerful. I think they suggest that we should have contempt for those who refuse to speak out against injustice and oppression. Im reminded of the importance of “voice” and standing up when the situation demands it. Not always easy.

I do wonder if I would be able to do so in a situation where my speaking out could lead to imprisonment,torture, or worse. I’m afraid I would not. Instead, I will try harder to chip away at any infractions of intolerance and discrimination that I encounter.

I never understood age discrimination until I got older—and, believe me, it is rampant. I refuse to allow age to define me and I speak up whenever I can.

“Contempt,”however, does make me curious to read more of Jelinek’s work. Here’s the full poem.


June 2, 2014
June 2, 2014