"The Sun" by William Carlos Williams + Rosé Mussels

The anecdote to any long week is a pot of glossy, steamed mussels dripping in garlic and wine. It's one of summers simple pleasures, and while the mussels themselves take a small amount of work to prep, they basically cook themselvesquickly in a warm bath, emerging plump and tender, ready to be spread on a piece of grilled bread.

This poem by William Carlos Williams makes no mention of mussels, but there are five words tucked in the middle of the poem, "the slovenly bearded rocks hiss—" that reminded me of the sound mussels make when they're steaming in the pot.

"Why I Am Not a Painter" by Frank O'Hara + Sardine and White Bean Salad


Some artists board themselves up in a room for weeks until the canvas or the typewriter inspires them. Others obsessively carry notebooks so that ideas can be captured the moment it strikes. Some go on retreats in the woods or by the sea, cut off from their digital lives for weeks at a time. Others look for it in their daily lives, in small doses that fit between work and school and errands.

The creative process has always been somewhat of a mystery, mostly because it affects each of us differently, and it can take years to fully understand how your own creativity ebbs and flows. One day, Frank O'Hara decided to write a poem about this very topic. "Why I Am Not a Painter" invites us in as if we are a friend sitting across from him at the dinner table, having a conversation.

"At the Fishhouses" by Elizabeth Bishop + Crab Mac & Cheese

The title of my graduate school lecture was "A Workshop with Elizabeth Bishop." To prepare, I read everything she ever wrote including poetry, prose, interviews, and letters, and extracted the key bits of writing wisdom she offered throughout her career. I intertwined these nuggets throughout more anchoring bits of material like commentary on specific poems and historical references to her life and career. It was a nice way to end the previous two years because it gave me something tangible to carry with me as I embarked on my future outside of academia. Beyond the basics such as keep a notebook, learn Latin and use a dictionary, her key manifesto was "always seek to improve." She once said, "I never have any sense of elation after I've finished. All I ever can see is room for improvement." Bishop was her toughest critic, which is one of the reasons her poems took years to write, or weren't written at all (her Collected Poems is one of the slimmest volumes of any poet on record.) I do think she could have stood to be a little easier on herself, though.