Posted by: jeannineatkins | February 26, 2010

Writing Poetry, Making Soup

I’ve been working on some new poems based on history. For much of the past two months I’ve hunkered over old stories. Now I spend some afternoons shuffling through my notes, letting them spill and flutter, seeing if an image can hold its own. Then I tidy up and start all over again, taking turns with facts and guesses.

If my research were cookbooks, they’d be spread across the counter, while I scavenged recipes. Then I’d cover my workspace with vegetables, too, comparing tastes and textures. First I’d chop off stems and tear out seeds, then cut increasingly smaller pieces, thinking of how they’d cook together so that nothing turned too hard or mushy. Once the pot was simmering, I’d bend close to pay attention to the scents and subtle flavors. Does it need salt? Or garlic?

Much as I like the collaboration with critique partners, or my editor, or readers who find new ways into what I write, I like time alone just messing around. Much as I like a party, it’s good to be in a kitchen, throwing this and that into a pot, wondering what exactly it will turn into, then opening another cupboard door.

Though I often work in the kitchen, with its view of the bird feeder and a tea pot by my elbow, of course it’s not really soup, but the start of a new book. Meanwhile, Borrowed Names should be in stores in two weeks. You can read a poem from it about Irène Curie at the MacKids Blog, which features Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group authors, illustrators, and some of the good smart people who get our work into the world. Click:

And here’s another link for a peek at the desk and walls of my wonderful editor, Reka Simonsen.

For more Poetry Friday celebrations, visit Check it Out:



  1. *Swoon*
    LOVE this post. That is all 🙂 . . .

  2. I look forward to reading Borrowed Names!

  3. Oh my goodness, does this ever resonate! I’ve written a series of poems on historical women… soup soup soup!! 🙂

  4. What a wonderful poem. I will look for Borrowed Names.
    Laura Evans

  5. Thanks for the soup and swoon, Jama!

  6. Thank you, Tabatha!

  7. Before I could add a comment here, I had to add Borrowed Names to my Look For It list. And I will! Thanks for the link to your poem about Irene Curie. Much is conveyed through your beautifully written poem.

  8. I LOVE just messing around in the kitchen. Same with poems. And starting a new book—every possibility is open. Aaaaaah.

  9. chopping vegetables, cutting cloth for quilts, laying down words: it all connects, doesn’t it?

  10. Thank you, Laura. And what a beautiful icon.

  11. I love making lists on Poetry Friday! Thanks for adding Borrowed Names to yours (it comes out mid-March).

  12. I like eating soup, but desserts are what I most like to make. Seeing batter get fluffy in just the right way: and tomorrow I’m invited to a tea party, so… thinking lemon cake, as the hostess will provide the chocolate end of things.
    Hope your weekend includes some word stirring.

  13. Terrific post–I love the wrinkled socks in your Curie poem!

  14. I was thinking about this post while I threw together some lentil soup for the crockpot. What a great analogy! And lovely–some links to look over after I get home later. Have a wonderful weekend, Jeannine.

  15. Pouring rain and windy here today – a perfect soup day. You made me crave it! 🙂
    I can’t wait for BORROWED NAMES! YAY YOU!

  16. Your metaphor is fascinating! The creative process can be found at a desk or in the kitchen!

  17. That Irene Curie poem is killer – the sores on her mother’s hands in particular.
    Great post.

  18. from Laura @AuthorAmok
    What a great persona poem. I love what’s going on in the background, rooting Irene to history.

  19. Re: from Laura @AuthorAmok
    Thank you, Laura!

  20. Thanks for the cheers, Debbi. It’s so good to see you around here more. Maybe it’s time for more soup-across-the-continent posts?!

  21. Thanks, Laura. And for commenting on the Mackids site, too!

  22. Lentil soup is my favorite this winter. Though maybe partly because there are fewer vegetables to chop! I don’t go far beyond carrots.
    Hope your weekend is wonderful, too.

  23. Maybe because I usually write in the kitchen, mixing metaphors comes pretty naturally! Thanks for coming here and commenting!

  24. Thanks, Kelly!

  25. As soon as I’m in our new home with a real kitchen and all my pots/pans/cooking stuff, yes, let’s do soup! (of course our weather will have turned to spring by then….)

  26. I thought since you enjoy poetry that I’d invite you to contribute your list of favorite poems to my survey. Read more about it here:

  27. It makes me so happy to think of you writing in the kitchen and rummaging in research books and cupboards (metaphorical and otherwise).
    “of course work/
    is the prize”
    Beautiful. So few words, so much meaning.
    Next time I sit down to work (or make soup), I’ll think of you.

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