Sunday, March 22, 2015

Billy Collins and Banana Nut Cake with Penuche frosting

Billy Collins is an American poet, appointed as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. He is a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York and is the Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute, Florida. Collins was recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004-2006. His poems appeal to a wide range of literary tastes. He is a master at capturing the nuances of everyday life and inspiring readers to wonder and think about the simple things in their lives. Often Collins' wry sense of humor comes across in the poems. He does not take himself too seriously. Collins is a master at engaging his reader in the first stanza by starting small not making too many demands and setting up the scene. Then he makes the poem more complicated and a little more demanding as he moves it along to completion.
Two years ago I was fortunate to hear him speak at Brainerd Lakes Community College.  
Some memorable lines from his presentation included: 
  • Revision is not cleaning up after the party, it is the party.
  • It is hard to fake humor, but one can fake seriousness.
  • Most poets find a voice and stick with that. The better you get the less you revise.
  • Poems take turns and you as a poet have to be ready to take turns and keep an open mind.
His most recent published book "Aimless Love" 2013, is a compilation of over 50 new poems and some selected poems from four of his previous books, "Nine Horses", "The Trouble with Poetry", "Ballistic" and "Horoscope for the Dead".
Envoy is a clever poem written on the back flap of the "Aimless Love".
by Billy Collins

Go, little book,
out of this house and into the world,

carriage made of paper rolling toward town
bearing a single passenger
beyond the reach of this jittery pen
and far from the desk and the nosy gooseneck lamp.

It is time to decamp,
put on a jacket and venture outside,
time to be regarded by other eyes,
bound to be held in foreign hands.

So off you go, infants of the brain,
with a wave and some bits of fatherly advice:

stay out as late as you like,
don’t bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can.

Billy Collins was the U.S. poet laureate at the time of the 9/11 attacks. A year later, he wrote "The Names" in honor of the victims. Collins read the poem before a special joint session of Congress held in New York City in 2002.

The Names

by Billy Collins

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.

A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,

And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,

I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,

Then Baxter and Calabro,

Davis and Eberling, names falling into place

As droplets fell through the dark.

Names printed on the ceiling of the night.

Names slipping around a watery bend.

Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.

In the morning, I walked out barefoot

Among thousands of flowers

Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,

And each had a name --

Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal

Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.

Names written in the air

And stitched into the cloth of the day.

A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.

Monogram on a torn shirt,

I see you spelled out on storefront windows

And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.

I say the syllables as I turn a corner --

Kelly and Lee,

Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.

When I peer into the woods,

I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden

As in a puzzle concocted for children.

Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,

Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,

Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.

Names written in the pale sky.

Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.

Names silent in stone

Or cried out behind a door.

Names blown over the earth and out to sea.

In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.

A boy on a lake lifts his oars.

A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,

And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --

Vanacore and Wallace,

(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)

Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.

Names etched on the head of a pin.

One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.

A blue name needled into the skin.

Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,

The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.

Alphabet of names in a green field.

Names in the small tracks of birds.

Names lifted from a hat

Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.

Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.

So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

Billy Collins March 22, 1941
Cook's notes: A sweet treat  perfect for his birthday. The cake is moist and a great use for over ripe bananas but it was the Penuche frosting that totally won me over. It is rich and creamy made from brown sugar, milk or cream and vanilla. You could just eat it from the bowl! 
I used a food processor to mash bananas and then added in cinnamon. Refrigerate frosted cake as it keeps better. 
Back to healthy on Monday. Blog postings resume with featured recipes using asparagus. 
Banana Nut Cake with Penuche Frosting
Cake Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of flour 
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder 
  • dash of salt 
  • 1/3 cup softened butter 
  • 1 cup white sugar 
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs 
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk 
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 4 mashed bananas (about 1-1/2 cups) 
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts 

Cake Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13 x 9 pan.
  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt-set aside. 
  • In a bowl cream butter, sugar and beaten eggs.
  • Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk and add to sugar mixture 
  • Combine with dry ingredients 
  • Add in lemon juice, cinnamon and mashed bananas, mix well. 
  • Stir in nuts and bake for 30 minutes or until center comes clean with a toothpick 
  • Cool before frosting 
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 3 TB. butter 
  • 1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar 
  • 1/4 cup milk (may need more) 
  • dash salt 
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar 
Frosting Directions:
  • In a saucepan melt butter on low heat, stir in brown sugar, milk, salt and vanilla. 
  • Use a whisk and stir on low heat until sugar dissolved and smooth about 2 minutes. 
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in powdered sugar. 
  • Use a hand mixer beat frosting in the saucepan until smooth. May need to add more milk for right consistency. 

1 comment:

  1. Poetry exactly as I like it: simple yet extraordinary and based on everyday life.

    The cake sounds yummy. It's been a long time since I've eaten this type of cake. But perhaps time to bake again, when I am expecting company.