Saturday, 26 October 2013

Baking tips from Annie by Pauline Seawards

I was a plain cook
in service and at home.
I was mashed spuds, slab cake, Birds custard
cabbage cut roughly and cooked properly.

I was skin a rabbit
pluck feathers from a hung bird
singe and draw.

Some women are too dainty for their own good
fall at seventeen
shop bought fancies all their married life

All men are boys at heart
seek comfort in sugar sandwiches

Sponge was my true love
baked when the oven was hot for roast.
Used cracked eggs (they have to break anyway),
mixed all in one with flour and fat,
flavoured half plain, half chocolate,
or coffee, to ring the changes
used the Stork wrapper
to prevent sticking.

In her ninetieth year, arthritic, her fingers were like dahlia tubers,
clutching a wooden spoon she could barely stir the mixture
The cakes still tasted the same
as if the blackened tins remembered the rise and flavour

Pauline Sewards currently lives near the Westbury White Horse in Wiltshire and is working on a series of poems about her grandmothers who were all fantastic bakers and unrecognised poets.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Soap Opera Cake by Claire Trévien

Kimberley’s plumbed the depths of the human brain,
her unusual layers are two powerhouses of flavour.
      Charlotte Royale’s a girl I went to school with
      tight curls tamed tighter with butterfly clips.
Planet Frances is an eggwashed choux,
that rarely sticks to the rule book.
       Charlotte used to put her brain in the fridge
       overnight, she always woke up furious.
Beccaroon needs to smack the judges 
with flavour instead of drowning in ale.
       Charlotte’s not been done justice,
       head covered in Ghostbuster’s gloop.
Apron caked with slaughtered ganache,
Ruby’s opera is an undefined tragedy.

Claire Trévien is the anglo-breton author of The Shipwrecked House (Penned in the Margins) which is longlisted in this year's Guardian First Book Award. She edits Sabotage Reviews (, co-edits Verse Kraken (, and co-organizes Penning Perfumes (

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Poem In Celebration Of A Thousand Sugary Kisses by Michelle McGrane

Behind, the bell chimes, the door closes on rue Royale and the frosty city.

The pâtisserie smells of almonds, caramel, vanilla, warm air trapped in choux and
shortcrust layers; memories of Pierre Éclair's childhood Rouen, his mother's flaky
croissants aux beurre, her pans of scallop-shaped Madeleines.

Charles Aznavour's 'Les Plaisirs Démodés' crackles through the vintage radio. Above
the till, the blackboard displays prices in smudged pink and white chalk next to
photographs of his wife and daughters.

Here, you can exhale, remove your gloves and scarf, take all the time you need
to choose your sticky cakes and viennoiseries: pain au chocolat, brioche à tête,
chausson aux pommes, tarte citron.

Linger over the macaroon tiers, the shelves of gleaming honey, quince and damson
jams, the stacks of mendicants and marron glacés.

M. Éclair knows all ills are eased by crème fraiche and ganache. If he could,
he would wrap the world in sweetness, dust the streets with icing sugar, marzipan
the steeples.

Michelle McGrane lives in Johannesburg and is a member of SA PEN. She blogs at

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Argot of Rye by Fran Lock

That time I lost it among meringues
listing like toppled mosques, cupcakes
piled up, knickknacks in a granny flat;
meticulously dainty chocs, in a posh
box like dolls’ house furniture. I said
I couldn’t stand it, that peevishly sweet
pretence, every morsel over-acting,
where whipped cream was a powdered
wig; Candy Land rococo with added
chintz. And you kicked me in my bad
ankle, under the table, and hissed: what
more did I want? And I started to tell
you, picking at sequined itoas of seed
from my uneaten roll, but you slapped
my hand and I cried instead, so I’ll
say it now: lover, I want what sent
Salem raving, that succotash sopping
rye, black as a bible, ripened like dark
fruit; the dense, soaked hump of it,
steaming. I want a mauled weight
of bread I can heft in my hands, stuff
to clutch; the taste of sweat and loam
and wet sand. Lover, I want a deep
dough swampy with figs; want garlic
barbs or olives big and black as rubber
bullets. Lover, I want borscht, dripping,
thick as bulls’ blood, slopped in bowls
with baby’s head pampushky. Lover,
I want stab vest slabs of honey cake.
But I see from your face that something
is lost in translation. Leave me then,
to the sour pong of my kitchen;
my splinters of pickle, my heavy-breathing
yeast. Leave me to dabble my cornstarch
like I’m dusting for prints. This is
the archaeology of the stomach and the heart.

Fran’s debut collection, ‘Flatrock’ (Little Episodes), was launched in May 2011. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Ambit, The Alarmist, Poetry London, The Stinging Fly, and in ‘Best British Poetry 2012’. Her second collection, ‘The Mystic and the Pig Thief’ (Salt), is due out in April 2014. She owns a basenji and several moth-eaten cardigans. She is still searching for the perfect cup of coffee.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Two Poems by Roberta James

The solace of java

He winks, exudes a ‘look look’ look you see shimmer
from a distance as you focus on the blackboard’s chalk offer,
a brand new blend of coffee that will take you to far places, 
a hand-made cake of spelt crusted with a coat of sugared cranberries
that promises a whole mouthfulness of taste from alpha to omega.  
You view the woman by him bask in his hot gaze, her mouth a volcano, 
until a gloss of sweat begins to round her face to moonshine.
His untwinkling eye catches your quickly - too-slow - hidden wish 

to explore.  He’s seen it all before.  He dims himself. That switch 
brings you down to earth with a hurt tangs copper in your mouth. 
So you break a hunk of crumble crust that dapples your buds, 
then dip into coffee depths until under its waterfall rush 
you loop up the foam to smooth it on your gums as balm, 
heal tender hidden skin, thin coverings sinewing the bones.

Sibling songs

She loads her spoon with scooped-out last remaining licks
and twirls away her haul.  He stamps his feet to her resounding beat 
while carrying the whisk that’s coated with caul-thin mix 
that’s left from the bowl.  For one and two and round the room, 
then three and four to close the door, she lifts her spoon baton so high 
then whirls and swoops in loops to one and two now sit on the floor 
for three then four eat up some more.  The rough side of her tongue 
absorbs the mixture thick and sugar-grit, raw, for one then two I want to sing 
so three then four don’t join in.  
                                                   He claps his hands to an arc cymbal-banging big, 
rolls away.  Lays on his back for a while to stare at the ceiling that is the colour of
old egg yolk, wonders what sound cake makes when it cooks if you are quiet enough
to catch it macaroon crisp marzipan sticks render and miss sticky bits miss,
gooey bits fizz swish boing and burst until the smell of hot sponge stops him.
She turns to stare at the oven window as he stands up, her face hollowing. 
She has seen the rising, the split down the middle.

Roberta James earns a crust working freelance in London in the creative industries, and thinks she may live where she does because it is within walking distance of a great bakers.

Hollywood by JT Welsch

Our Hollywood baker returns to England,
a fall like his weaker contestants’ bread.
Every day, another headline to share
with comment: team him or team
poor wife whose pain we share
since her – our – betrayal.

No one sees his lonesomeness
in the return to mere couplehood—
to no longer sweep the room, hands on hips,
and know: but I am more than this!
—the errant heart still leaping
if she touches your phone.

It’s the thing no contestant
dares admit: love is risk.
May the game reveal my recipe to me
in every heightened peccadillo: So, you say,
muting the replay. That’s how I look not
bullshitting. You take notes.

JT Welsch is the author of three chapbooks, the most recent of which is 'Waterloo' (Like This Press, 2012). He is also a lecturer at York St John University.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Easy Cakes of Ottolenghi by Jacqueline Saphra

In his salad days of skins and caves, man
gave chase. He slaughtered buck, swallowed
the heart. He knew adrenaline, hauled woman

after woman by the hair. That’s all gone.
Now there’s money and a new ache every day,
sags in unexpected places, a loss of collagen

and desire. Hunger’s always knocking
at the edges, just the tongue that’s jaded.
The waitress who’s an actress resting

crouches by the table: Sorrel sir, or salsify?
The soft salt melt of sea-bream, halibut,
a thrill of salsa, quince and pomegranate.

Then dessert: the easy cakes of Ottolenghi
drip their syrups, glisten in the night, secrete
fresh tones of apple, grenadilla, rose.

Jacqueline Saphra’s first full collection, The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions (flipped eye) was developed with the support of Arts Council England and nominated for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

On Typing Paper Stolen From Her Employers She Proceeds To Evolve A Campaign by Amy Key

A feeling that I should be writing a diary,
but every thought feels like an abomination. Like: drunk desire,
or cling-film bed sheets. My old diaries
bring on a feeling like feeling uncertain in someone’s embrace.
How I lacked ingenious neuroses!
Meanwhile, I am in love with blondes
in the newest way passion can exert itself. But,
it was blondes who I first edged my knee towards,
some hours before intolerable kisses.
Lips I’ve kissed crumble like meringue.
Hopes should recede with age, but this isn’t
a right-seeming present!
Mainly, I sat with the expectant feeling
of a passenger, for minutes and streets away
other things were possible. Sleep, a means of lace-edging days.
I could mock all my past’s authentic woes
and the character I sketched out for a novel
that might be me: “23 years old, no imagination”.
Surely I should be listening to other songs by now.
My imagined future is a collapsed soufflé.

Amy Key co-edits the online journal Poems in Which. Her debut collection Luxe is forthcoming from Salt. Hers is a salted caramel macaron.