“Hye Holiday Gathering” by Elaine Reardon

Elaines Family
Top Left: Elaine’s great grandmother Hripsoma, her grandmother Miriam, and her Aunt, Sitanoush. Top Right: Elaine being held by Father Kevon as a child. Bottom: Elaine’s parents when they got married

Hye Holiday Gathering

Gram prepared paklava and bourma
without a written recipe. Like a newly
hatched bird I’d wait for a bits of sweetness
to fall, walnuts covered with cinnamon,
honey mixed with lemon. I stood on a stool
to watch. Before me, at this table Hrpesima and Mariam had
mixed the phyllo and rolled it by hand, but when I was six we
bought phyllo papeer-thin sheets from Sevan’s Market in Watertown.

Gram melted butter in the cast iron skillet.
Don’t let the butter sizzle-too hot!
She mixed sugar and cinnamon in a bowl for me to add
then got out the heavy rolling pin. I crushed
walnuts beneath it’s weight. Gram said be sure
the nuts are ground fine! Grind them again—
still too big. I pushed the rolling pin hard against
walnuts, then we mixed in sugar and cinnamon .

We took one layer of phyllo at a time,
brushed with melted butter, sprinkled in nuts,
then rolled as quickly as we could.
Finally, using the sharpest blade,
we sliced the fragile rolls and
placed them on the cookie sheet.
Gram’s were straight and long,
mine crinkled, like thin fabric.

I have the recipe still, yellow with age,
thin and tattered, like phyllo dough,
filled with handed down memories from those
who sat at this table before me —Shushan, Bedros,
Kevon, Katchador, and Sitanoush cooking
to honor Kharpet and homeland no longer on the map.
Now I’m the old one. When I cook, my
grandmother’s voice follows me, step by step.

 


Dedication and Background for This Poem:

This poem was written to honor my Armenian family. My grandmother came to the United States in 1915 from Kharpet, where she and some of her siblings survived the town’s massacre and the genocide. My Great Great Uncle Katchador was the tallest, strongest person I knew when I was four years old. My grandmother Mariam had immediately married and lived with her new husband’s family. Hripsame was her mother-in-law. Her first two girl-children were Ana, my mother, and Sitanoush, my aunt. When I was five, Father Kevon, my grandmother’s cousin, found us! He was the only survivor from his part of the family. Monks from the school he attended took him in. When he was old enough, he became an itinerant monk and traveled in the mountains with a donkey. Years passed, and when I met him, in the photo included with my poem, he was working at the Vatican. He visited whenever he came to this country, and he was like a grandpa to me. Cooking traditions were passed from each generation around the table. For Armenians, food is nourishment for the heart as well as the belly. When I begin to mix up some cherog dough, or when I make paklava, I feel close to my ancestors, and I can still hear my grandmother’s voice in my ear. Sometimes I find that I’m 4 years old again, standing on a stool at the table, pressing down hard on the walnuts with the rolling pin.

May all beings live in peace
May all beings have food
May all beings live in safety

Elaine Reardon


Author Bio:

Elaine is a poet, herbalist, and educator. Her chapbook, The Heart is a Nursery For Hope, won first honors from Flutter Press in 2016. She’s recently been awarded the Beal Poetry third place prize,and was shortlisted at the International Hammond House Poetry contest and the Writer’s Digest Poetry Contest. Most recently Elaine’s poetry has been published by UCLA journal, Automatic Pilot, Sleep-ZZZ Journal, Crossways Journal, The Dublin Inksplinter’s 2019 anthology, and similar journals. Elaine has also been nominated for the Push Cart Prize. Visit her website at elainereardon.wordpress.com


Find Elaine at:

Elaine’s Website
The Heart is a Nursery For Hope on Amazon

 

© The Literary Librarian 2019

Interview: An Interview with Poet, Elaine Reardon

Book Name and Description:  

The Heart is a Nursery for Hope – a chapbook of poetry

Cover3 copy 2

The overarching theme of Elaine Reardon’s poetry chapbook, The Heart is a Nursery for Hope, is life’s transmutations, life in all its quirkiness, from small moments in the day to life- changing events. Whatever the heart holds can nourish and transform. 

This book is available on Amazon: Click Here.
This book is also available on Flutterpress: Click Here.

 

Canning Jars
By Elaine Reardon   

I had need of the old jars this morning
went to the cellar to retrieve them
from the bottom shelf
the empty jars still had bits
of your faded handwriting

Twenty two years ago you sat with me
writing lavender, thyme, anise hyssop
on stickers with neat calligraphy
a row of garden for the herb shelf

It was difficult to loosen faded labels
to fill the jars with something new
they now sparkle in the dish drainer
aside from rust on the hinges

Like what changes the heart
what charges iron to rust
can’t be removed easily

 

What gave you the idea for The Heart is a Nursery for Hope?

At the center of things, for me as well as for so many other folks, is hope.  We have difficult situations in our lives, and we need to cope, to get through the difficulties. Kind of like after a big snowfall, one shovel-full at a time – soon you can get down the stairs and out the door.

And somewhere in that process, you may notice how beautiful the snow is, how the flakes stick, and how the moon-shine lights the landscape.  I’m a practical optimist!  Also, I’ve noticed that perspective can change how we feel about things.  Many people have told me they feel spiritually inspired by the poetry.  That both pleases and inspired me, because that feedback has come from folks of many differing religions.

 

What got you into writing in this genre?

My Dad is from the old country (Ireland).  I grew up in the oral tradition of story and song… Every day was a wonderful story.  Even his WW2 stories about getting ready for D-Day on the moors of England, were fashioned for a child’s hearing.  I remember one story of how he saved a chocolate bar from his rations, but the mice got to it before he did.  He could bring a sense of wonder to the mundane. And I don’t think I’ve ever lost that sense of wonder.  If I could carry a tune, I might be singing!

How long have you been writing? I began when I was four, but I couldn’t actually write, yet.  I then took it up again in the second grade.  Again, my teacher dashed my hopes, as she wanted me to do math instead.

 

Tell us about your past books and stories? 

I’ve been published in Three Drops from a Cauldron Anthology, and in their journal. They have an interesting website to explore.  Also, I’ve been “Poet of the Week” on PoetrySuperHighway.com, and featured on masspoetry.org,  Halcyon Days Journal, and Poppy Review.  I’ve directed the work for and edited a Vernal Pool Poster, published by Vernal Pool Association. As an educator, I’ve been published by University of Massachusetts Press, as part of a book about global education.  Finally, I have a picture-book that I’ve recently submitted to several places, and this is another first, for me.  I’ve had support from my local Society of Picture Book Writers and Illustrators as I’ve worked and revised.

 

What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

My family started off my life with song, story, and nursery rhymes, and these have been a large influence. My mom and her sisters loved to croon along with old jazz tunes and big band favorites.  My critique group meets monthly, and that kind of support is wonderful, so I’m always learning to refine.  My writing day is a bit like riding on a see-saw!  I usually begin trying to get email submissions and glancing over journals and online communications early in the day. But then, other days I dash off to yoga first. At some point, I need to go outdoors and be in nature. To listen, walk, or work.  My days are not as organized as I’d like.

 

What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why?

Poetry books: Night Walker by by Thurston. Her poetry is just gorgeous. Very simple, very deep. Every line is in place, both technically and emotionally. Billy Collins, for his searing commentary, observations, and humor. I’m enjoying Horoscopes for the Dead right now.  Also, A Moment in the Field, by Margaret Lloyd.   Books are sacred things to me, and reading is a sacrament.  In writing this, I realize I have the first book my grandmother gave me, of fairy tales, before I was old enough to read it, and the second and third books given to me, when I turned eight years old.  One is poetry, and one is about Paul Revere.  It’s interesting that history and poetry have journeyed through my years with me.

 

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I take chances, and listen to wise insight from my poetry elders.  I think it’s a responsibility to birth what you can into the world.  You do what you can to better the world.  I’m new at painting, and have been in some local shows. I dash around taking photos when I write my blog, to pair pictures with words. Twelve years ago, I wasn’t doing any of this! I also became a solar coach for my town, and learned a lot about solar /alternative energy. Every day brings new possibilities.

 

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers? 

For me, a laptop.  I’m a messy writer – I need a dictionary and quiet. Also, books to read, writer friends, and a sangha to meet with.

 

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author? 

The idea that we are always evolve, it’s through all the experiences of writing that we see how we can refine our work. Writing is like learning a language, or math, or riding a bike.  You have to do it for yourself.

 

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

elainereardon.wordpress.com is my blog, I have a Facebook page for the book, and an author page on Goodreads.  Marketing is tricky when you are published by small presses. I’ve done readings at libraries, bookstores, poetry venues, and literary festivals like the Brattleboro Literary Festival, and the Orange Garlic and Arts Festival.

 

What piece of your own work are you most proud of? 

Ha! Perhaps my unpublished children’s story, The Star Keepers.  Two of my poems were finalists in contests, Memories of Vietnam, and Thanksgiving.

 

What are you doing next?

My neighbor recently found some primary documents, letters from the man who lived where I live, on this land, before we were a country, in the late 1700s.  Reading them makes history come alive for me, from a serious hailstorm, to the Boston Tea Party.  I’ve downloaded some historical documents and want to begin to research and write about James Ball, and that time-frame in my town. I can almost feel him here, and can almost see him looking into the stream.

 

What advice would you give aspiring writers? 

Write, read, don’t self-judge – not everything will be wonderful. Put writing away, and look at it in a couple weeks. You’ll see what to tweak.  Find a sangha of writers be connect with.

 

Bio:

Elaine is a poet, herbalist, educator, and member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Her chapbook, The Heart is a Nursery For Hope, won first honors from Flutter Press. Most recently, Elaine’s poetry has been published by Three Drops from a Cauldron Journal, MA Poet of the Moment, Nature Writing, and poetrysuperhighway.com.  Elaine lives tucked into the forest in Central Massachusetts and maintains a blog at elainereardon.wordpress.com.

 

Links:

The Heart is a Nursery for HopeAmazon

The Heart is a Nursery for HopeFlutterpress

Elaine’s WordPress

Elaine’s Twitter

Poetry Host: Mass Poetry Poem of the Moment

Poetry Host: Nature Writing

 

© The Literary Librarian 2017