Friday, April 11, 2014

NaPoWriMo #11: Free Verse

Shared History

Twin beds
with a rust-coloured rug
between us.
Nights we whispered
about the street
where we'd live
side by side.

Turned out differently.
I put down the phone
and start tidying.
You are the one
who showed me how
to make my bed.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

NaPoWriMo #5: Borrow Some Lines

For this type of found poemthe CentoI borrowed one line from five favourite poems and rearranged them into something new:

The white nails of rain have dropped and the sun is free.
All that is new is telling the truth.
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
You'd sing too
over the sea, over the smoke.


Line 1: from “Berry Picking” by Irving Layton

Line 2: from “Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman” by Anne Sexton

Line 3: from “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens

Line 4: from “You’d sing too” by Leonard Cohen

Line 5: from “Your Hands” by Pablo Neruda

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

NaPoWriMo #2: Word Sonnet

One of my favourite poetic forms, the word sonnet is a modern, pared down version of the classic 14-line poem. Here's one I just wrote:



Read more word sonnets in Foreplay: An Anthology of Word Sonnets (University of Ottawa.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

NaPoWriMo #1: Erasure Poem

I'm easing into this with an Erasure poem. The text is pulled from Chapter 1 of Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady:

The Perfect Middle of a Splendid Summer Afternoon

What was left
smooth, dense turf
a little eternity
the shadows of an old man
sitting near the low table
desultory talk, cigarettes.

Above the river
house bruised and defaced
a great bargain
at the end of twenty years
velvet curtains
down to the water.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Food-Allergy-Friendly Bahamas

This March break our family of four enjoyed seven days and seven nights on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, a place I'd visited almost twenty years ago, and was so happy to return to. Hasn't changed much:

As a carefree twenty-something, "where" and "what" to eat on the island were the least of my troubles (What were my troubles? I suspect they might have been related to taming my hair in the humid climate.)

Now, it's all about the famiglia. We find it challenging to feed ourselves while on vacation because a) We don't typically eat a lot of restaurant meals, and that's what tends to happen while away, and b) Our second child is allergic to wheat, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts. This doesn't mean we avoid travelling as a family. We've spent time in Canada, of course, but also in the US, most notably, Florida. Orlando is a safe bet in terms of finding ideal accommodations (suites with full kitchens) as well as grocery stores and restaurants that cater to those with special food restrictions/needs.

So it was with more than a little trepidation that we started planning our Caribbean holiday. Just because it would be so different. No car to drive and no recognizable grocery stores. We did, however, have a hotel room with a full kitchen (This actually turned out to be a kitchen with everything but an oven. I wasn't planning on baking any cakes in the 80+degree conditions, but warming up food that way is nice.) As for the grocery situation, I did my fair share of online research from home in snowy Toronto. I discovered and ordered up a few days' worth of supplies to be delivered to our hotel the afternoon of our arrival. This was to avoid having to take a taxi to the grocery store on the first day. It was very expensive: $8.49 for a 4 oz package of raspberries; $4.49 for a half-litre bottle of Perrier; $7.50 for 8 oz of mozzarella; $7.99 for a 1/2 gallon of organic milk; $10.95 for 500 ml of olive oil.) We decided to suck it up, since we could always take a taxi to the grocery store in Nassau and see for ourselves if the offerings were better and/or cheaper. The quality of the food was slightly better, when we did make that $40 trip, but the prices were not. As my husband kept saying, "They have to import all this stuff, remember that. Nothing is grown here."

Another aspect of our pre-trip planning: booking the restaurant reservations from home. My husband called the Chef's Office at Atlantis, and told them about our son's food allergies. All of this information was then shared with the restaurants where we'd booked. Ultimately, however, it would be up to us to inform the chef at each restaurant of our child's special dietary restrictions. No surprise there.

When we dine out as a family, we avoid the fast food chains for fear of cross-contamination issues such as different foods being cooked in the same oil and the likelihood of less work space, translating into less "clean" work space, along with less knowledge about food ingredients. We don't see it as a treat anyway. At Downtown Disney in Orlando, for instance, we made a point of dining upstairs at Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe. I wrote about it in my post on Orlando dining here.

On Paradise Island, we ate out four of seven nightsa new record! Seafire Steakhouse, Carmine's (twice), and Casa d'Angelo all did a great job of feeding us well, including our youngest. For each visit, our son's (custom) order was taken by the chef and then brought to him by the same chef. During this trip, his restaurant fare included steak, gluten-free, egg-free pasta, chicken, veal, baked potato, broccoli, and tomato and cucumber salad. And let's not forget the in-between snacks by the pool, or walking back to the hotel from the Atlantis resort: Lay's Potato Chips, Gatorade, and Ben & Jerry's Lemonade Sorbet. Special points to the staff member at Ben & Jerry's in Marina Village, who opened a new container of sorbet for our son and then set aside more in a separate container in the freezer away from the other flavours should we visit again (we did!) Round that out with all the grocery staples brought from home or purchased on the island, and you can say, we had nothing to worry about!

Speaking of grocery staples, here's what I packed from home:

Quinoa Crunchies Cereal, Squiggles Fruit Snacks, Want-Want Brown Rice Crisps, Italpasta Gluten-free, Egg-free, Dairy-free Pasta, Glutino Pretzels, Enjoy Life Coco Loco Bars, Florida's Naturals Fruit Nuggets.

President's Choice Basmati Rice, Unico Tuna (lunch saver!), Smucker's Raspberry Jam, Wheat Pasta (for those of us without allergies), Tea (for me), Aurora Canned Tomatoes, Unico Cornmeal, El Peto Italian Rice Bread. Not seen in this pic, but very important: pot, pan, and cooking utensils for the Bambino's food prep in our hotel kitchen.

It was a very relaxing vacation, but I can't deny that it pushed me out of my comfort zone as the parent of a child with food allergies. I would encourage others to follow suit, as long as they've done their research and come prepared*, because everyone benefits, don't you think?

The Bambino (in the green and black shirt) leads the way through The Dig.

*"come prepared" = bring your EpiPens/allergy medication everywhere you go, and know the location of the nearest hospital.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Beauty: On the Cusp: Word Sonnets by Seymour Mayne

I received this lovely trilingual (English/Spanish/French) collection of word sonnets in late December. The Spanish version, titled Albores: Sonetos de una palabra, was translated by María Laura Spoturno et al. and the French, titled À l’orée: Sonnets d’un mot, by Sabine Huynh. Published in 2013 by the Faculty of Humanities at the National University of La Plata, the book is an impressive collaboration between Seymour Mayne and his translators.

For those of you wondering, the word sonnet is a modern, pared down version of the classic 14-line sonnet. Here's a handy explanation pulled from the preface to A Dream of Birds (a collection of word sonnets by Mayne and B. Glen Rotchin, featured on my blog a few years back): "In some respects the form attempts to season the traditional Western European verse with the Far Eastern flavour of a minimalist haiku. As in a haiku, the word sonnet attempts to ignite a moment—to generate a spark that echoes with the luminosity of deeper meaning."

I am happy to be able to reproduce the title poem of the collection, with thanks to Seymour Mayne.



Inspired? Ready to try your hand at a word sonnet? NaPoWriMo isn't that far off.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Happy 7th Birthday, August Avenue!

In honour of my seventh year blogging here about all the minute and not-so-minute things that interest me (and maybe a few of you), here's a recent poem of mine: 


You posted a photo today
taken twenty years ago.
I remember you well
peddling your chapbooks
in Café Wim
while I shared a carafe of wine
with someone else.
The waitress said something
about sitting there all day
drinking the free coffee refills.
You smiled at her
and signed a book for me.

©2014 Maria Scala

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Celebrating 10 Years of Literary Mama!

I have a blog post up at Literary Mama, in honour of their 10-Year Anniversary:
It was definitely an “aha” moment for me when I discovered Literary Mama. As a new mom to a baby girl, I sat transfixed before the site on my then desktop computer in our home office while my daughter either slept, or nursed, or both, in my arms. Not long after, in the summer of 2007, when she turned two, I joined Literary Mama as a Columns Editor. more

It was definitely an “aha” moment for me when I discovered Literary Mama. As a new mom to a baby girl, I sat transfixed before the site on my then desktop computer in our home office while my daughter either slept, or nursed, or both, in my arms. Not long after, in the summer of 2007, when she turned two, I joined Literary Mama as a Columns Editor.
- See more at:
It was definitely an “aha” moment for me when I discovered Literary Mama. As a new mom to a baby girl, I sat transfixed before the site on my then desktop computer in our home office while my daughter either slept, or nursed, or both, in my arms. Not long after, in the summer of 2007, when she turned two, I joined Literary Mama as a Columns Editor.
- See more at:

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Some Thoughts on Kate Hopper's Ready for Air

A few nights ago I finished reading Kate Hopper's gorgeous memoir Ready for Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood. I 'know' Kate from our work together at Literary Mama. I gobbled up her first book Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers, a fantastic resource that I recommend to any mama writers seeking inspiration.

Ready for Air is the book Kate wrote first, however. It was a long road to publication, as you can learn here from Janine Kovac's excellent profile for Literary Mama.

I am so glad that this book made it into the world. Although my own motherhood journey has been technically different (both my children were full term), I can relate to this story on so many levels. A recurring theme through the early part, which offers a vivid account of Stella's premature birth and the ensuing complications, is "This was not part of the plan." Show me a new parent who hasn't said that!

Jump ahead now to when Kate and her husband Donny finally get the green light to bring their baby home from the NICU. This is what they were aiming for, all those stressful weeks at the hospital. But, then, another change in plans. Stella must remain indoors for cold and flu season (six months!) because she is especially susceptible to illness. Kate and her family must be vigilant in keeping all germs at bay. No one with a cold can come near Stella. And there's no way Kate can sit in a coffee shop writing, her baby napping in a car seat next to her. The preoccupation with hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes reminded me of a similar time in our family's life when my sister's daughter Rachel was in the early stages of her battle with leukemia, at four years of age, the year she would be starting kindergarten. In the same way that Stella has transformed from being "Stella born at thirty-two weeks" to just "Stella", Rachel has sloughed off her leukemia label, and grown into a healthy, vibrant tween.

And there's another connection for me. I think of my feisty son, with his multiple food allergies, and his imminent entry into school life. I have kept him in a kind of quarantine, all these years, preventing and controlling his exposure to the things he needs to avoid. Lately, he has learned to communicate more clearly about his allergies, but I don't want him to ever define himself strictly as "That Kid with Allergies." Ready for Air is a story for every parent of a child like this fragile, yet infinitely strong.