If you haven’t read Little Patuxent Review’s Food issue yet, it includes interviews with two unique women, one from California and one from nearby Annapolis. Their stories can be savored, one after another, with the zest of Jane Hirshfield’s and Grace Cavalieri’s lives combining to create a lingering intensity you’ll think about days after you lay aside the Review.
“I learned that attention changes the flavor of things,” said Jane Hirshfield, who lives and writes in Mill Valley, California. Hirshfield is a poet, translator, essayist and former cook at the influential Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.
Contemplate the power of her remark, “I learned that attention changes the flavor of things.” Depending upon context, she might be speaking about a stew, a poem, or a relationship. Hirshfield’s word choice in what appears on the surface to be a simple statement demonstrates her ability to layer meaning. All of her writing reads this way. I pulled apart each of her sentences, as delicate as phyllo dough, gasping at their beauty.
As I immersed myself in Hirshfield’s poetry, savoring her words, I found myself slowing down in the kitchen. Grinding pepper, tossing salt, licking the spoon, taking risks by going off book and steeping myself fully in the creative experience. I’m a foodie, but reading Hirschfield deepened my relationship with the cooking process.
No one knows the value of relationship like Grace Cavalieri. She and her late husband, Kenneth Flynn, were married for 60 years. “He gave me everything. He died so I could have the only gift he could not give while he lived, my independence,” the poet and playwright said. Cavalieri interviews poets on The Library of Congress radio program called The Poet and the Poem. “The love, betrayal, hunger, need, refusals, dependence, adoration—it was all ours.”
Cavalieri’s viewpoint that her husband’s death was his ultimate gift to her is a transformative thought. Her ability to comprehend and share a love so deep makes me yearn to sit at her feet, a student.
Like Hirshfield, Cavalieri’s words address the human condition. They both leave you with a lingering taste for living, hungry for new encounters. I wonder if whipping up Grace Cavalieri’s Spaghetti al Tonno is the magic ingredient to creating a love story like hers. Or will following the directions in Hirshfield’s spare but directive poem “Da Capo” teach me how to live more fully? What impact might these powerful women and their words have on you?
Special thanks goes out to all the women who contributed to the Food issue. You can read all about Jane Hirshfield’s insightful, creative life in the interview with Susan Thornton Hobby, a writer of prose and poetry and founding member of the Little Patuxent Review. Grace Cavalieri’s interview by poet, workshop leader and LPR contributing editor Ann Bracken, speaks to the importance of living a creative life breathing with possibilities.
Online Editor’s Note: Special thanks goes out to Michael J. Clark, LPR’s co-publisher for his insight, suggestion and seeds with which to sow this post.