Oulipost #1: Invest in authority, or, “Structural changes are a possibility”

for Selah Cohort 12


Done in by a relent-

less desire

to expand,


the most power

ful testaments to…peril

…are not found.


Attention has only

Begun to focus

On the …financial model

As a root problem.



Lots of challenging

And difficult things

Have been under-

Taken to great advantage,

Or sometimes to not

Great advantage.


One potential

Remedy would be

Placing the executive director.

And making



[and] telling Dracula he’s

got to leave the blood



Flegenheimer, Matt, “Report Traces Port Authority’s Flaws to a Crumbling Business Model,” New York Times, 1 April 2014.


Inspired by my grad school friend poet Nancy Long, I’ve signed up to craft found poems from the headlines every day in April, National Poetry Month. To get started, we answer some interview questions. 

What excites you about Oulipost?

The headline focus. Writing good, evocative headlines to fit is good training for a poet. Plus I like the outward outlook drawing on headlines will promote. Thus far in my extremely short time writing poems, the poems have been drawn from my own experience — much like most of my literary nonfiction. I’m excited about the poetry of hard politics, hard news — and this wacky weather that April is sure to keep bringing. I live in a great newspaper town, complete with competing tabloids which will offer so much poetry possibility.

Plus — poems every day! That’s way better for a person than vitamins. 

What (if anything) scares you about Oulipost?

Poems! Every day. Also, I haven’t really published anything here before — self publishing sorta scares me. 

Have you written experimental or found poetry before?

Nope. Can’t get worse! 

What newspaper will serve as your source text? 

I’m a daily devotee of the Grey Lady, but I’m definitely not monogamous. I plan to draw on the Daily News and sometimes the New York Post (especially the Sports sections). I also travel a lot and April is no exception so I’ll sample the local offerings and see what makes its way in.

Who is your spirit Oulipian?

Nancy Long got me into this so I gotta pick her! Plus I already know that I love her work and, especially, her amazing spirit.  I’m reassured to see some familiar names and looking forward to e-meeting lots of people. Feels like only the second time I’m introducing myself as a poet. (The first time required quite a lot of Scotch.)  


Busy spring!

Happy Passover/Easter/Spring from the Deep South, where we’re already knee-deep into strawberry season.

It’s been a busy first quarter. Last week, I published a quick recap of my Seder shopping adventures in Religion Dispatches Magazine.

Last month, I had an interview with Restaurant Opportunity Centers-United co-founder Saru Jayaraman about her new book, Behind the Kitchen Door (get it, if you haven’t yet) in Clarion.

And in February, I was very pleased to join Dr. Jon Deutsch and other culinary publishing experts for a discussion of culinary textbooks at the Roger Smith Cookbook conference.

Blue Coat

I’m so pleased that the good and fun folks at Streetlight Magazine included my essay “Blue Coat” for their relaunch edition. Spring is such a great time for renewing literary ventures. In honor of Spring and Passover, here’s a quick taste — but I hope you’ll savor the whole magazine. There’s lots of good stuff in there.

Before I went to college I was indifferent about my Jewishness. But explaining lox to my first Minnesotan boyfriend (“I thought it was some kind of bread product,” he said), realizing that I argue for fun and sport, knowing that I would never cross a picket line—hell, that I knew what a picket line was—it all made me realize I wasn’t only a New Yorker, I was a Jew. And not just a generic Jew, but a red-diaper-grandbaby Jew. I began—what else?—to study. (And to go to therapy.) I was already interested in this heritage, but when my grandmother died I felt my tether to my Judaism snap, and ricochet back at me.


It is a fact of literary life that journal publication is sometimes delayed. So it is with the soon-to-be-revived journal scheduled to publish one of my essays. Both essay and journal are “forthcoming.”

But look over here — cake! There are certainly ways that baking a cake is like writing an essay: both depend on confidence, practice, chemistry and a little bit of magic. Good cakes and good writing both boast fine flavor, enough lift to avoid being dense but enough substance to avoid being too light. Like a writing an excellent essay, cake baking balances tradition and innovation, experiment with combinations and proportions and ideas, but stay within some general bounds dictated by common sense and physical limits. Both are best layered, and feature some contrast. Also, if it flops or collapses or just plain sucks, it’s relatively painless to trash the failed experiment. But here are three ways baking a cake is not like writing an essay:  cake baking is linear, low-stakes, and makes your house smell good.

Cake is a good consolation prize for receiving rejections, a real reward for sitting and writing, and productive procrastination for whiling away the time this writer spends waiting for her work to see print. What can’t cake do?

Oil and Water… don’t mix, but we did.

I had such a good time on Sunday reading — and spending time — with Oil and Water…And Other Things That Don’t Mix Editor Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson-Brown and contributors Laura B. Gschwandtner, Ginger McKnight-Chavers, and Maureen Doallas, who graciously coordinated us. (The book is available from Amazon and benefits Mobile, AL charities. Read well and do good at the same time.)

It could have been supremely awkward — meetings of writers often are. And these are not just any writers. These are writers I’m already intimate with, people whose work snuggled up next to mine between the covers of our anthology. I’ve already spent lots of time with their words, so of course I wondered, what would they be like in real life? Would I like them, really like them? Could the be as fab as their poems/stories/essays?

Not to worry — they were.

We did have a friendly lovefest, listening to these ladies’ poems/stories/essays in their own strong voices. I get so much from hearing writers speak their words aloud, from hearing the inflection, the additions and the contractions, the humor — an increased intimacy.

Oil and Water may not mix, but Oil and Water contributors definitely do, and I hope we will again soon!

Thanks to Judith HeartSong for the photo (from her blog) and for hosting us at her lovely gallery. 

Cupcake City

How would you represent your hometown with a specific cupcake and flavor of frosting?

For the first-ever Restaurant Worker Olympics, eight teams from across the US took the challenge — but only one could snatch the gold. Read my piece in the current Brooklyn Rail to find out who won, and how ROC activists are working to win restaurant worker justice in cities across the US.