Come Rain or Shine: Gin and Tonic in Philip Larkin’s ‘Sympathy in White Major’ (1974)

This month the Literary Kitchen is taking an alcoholic turn: it is that time of the year when many of us would like to be outside and enjoy a perfectly cold beer or cocktail; and for me (Nico – but maybe Amy too), when that time comes, it has to be a gin and tonic. Gin and tonic was not at all a popular choice … Continue reading Come Rain or Shine: Gin and Tonic in Philip Larkin’s ‘Sympathy in White Major’ (1974)

Michael Longley: Lost For Words

As our Northern Irish readers will know, stoically eating ice cream in the drizzle is something of a local tradition. If drizzle is not available, then usually a heavy downpour means that ice cream can be consumed in the car. I am privileged that my parents now live within 10 minutes’ drive of a fabled ice cream shop – The Cabin in Donaghadee. It’s a … Continue reading Michael Longley: Lost For Words

Endlessly Surprising: Spanish Omelette in Louis MacNeice’s “Autumn Journal” (1939)

To read the poetry of Louis MacNeice is an endlessly rewarding activity. It can be intricately beautiful and philosophically insightful, but politically and culturally astute at the same time. Every time I come to write about MacNeice (which I have done often over the previous eight years), I am surprised again at the deft placement of a word, the freshness of an image, or his … Continue reading Endlessly Surprising: Spanish Omelette in Louis MacNeice’s “Autumn Journal” (1939)

The Flavour of Scotland: Haggis, neeps & tatties, and Robert Burns’ ‘Address to a Haggis’ (1786)

It is Monday, 25 January, and the weather is not the greatest in Edinburgh, Scotland: it is all one grey air, the colour of the houses running out to the sky, and becoming one with it. And yet, one can feel a vague excitement around town. Today, in Scotland (in fact, all around the U.K.) people are celebrating the 257th anniversary of a rather special … Continue reading The Flavour of Scotland: Haggis, neeps & tatties, and Robert Burns’ ‘Address to a Haggis’ (1786)

When you miss home: saltless Tuscan bread in Dante’s Paradiso (La Divina Commedia, c. 1304-1321)

As I (Nico, clearly) am about to leave Italy once again, and as migrants and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East sadly gallop through Southern Europe to reach the better-off North, the Literary Kitchen today will offer you something from a most famous Italian writer who went through political exile: Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). Dante was, of course, a privileged exile: being already a … Continue reading When you miss home: saltless Tuscan bread in Dante’s Paradiso (La Divina Commedia, c. 1304-1321)

Holes and histories: baguettes in Ciaran Carson’s ‘For All We Know’ (2008)

Belfast-born poet Ciaran Carson is one of the most accomplished wordsmiths to be found amongst the current generation of writers. Born in 1948, he has published over 29 volumes of poetry, prose and translations from Irish. Carson’s indefatigable flair for witty, convoluted, memorable story-telling is cemented in his 2008 volume, For All We Know. This is an absolutely beautiful and emotive novelistic sequence of not-quite-sonnets … Continue reading Holes and histories: baguettes in Ciaran Carson’s ‘For All We Know’ (2008)

Kneading bread: temptation in Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’ (1862)

The nursery rhyme sounds of Christina Rossetti’s most famous poem, ‘Goblin Market’, chimed through my childhood and were probably among the earliest sources of my interest in poetry. Yet this ambivalent tale is underpinned by darkness, rhythmic instability, and contradictory interpretations. The narrative is simple: two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, hear goblins calling them to buy mysterious fruit. But they know they shouldn’t eat it. Laura’s willpower breaks … Continue reading Kneading bread: temptation in Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’ (1862)