Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Celebrating James Wright with Cranberry Orange Pistachio Biscotti

 "Poetry can keep life itself alive. 
You can endure almost anything as long as you can sing about it."
by James Wright
A Minnesota Encounter

James Wright (December 13, 1927 – March 25, 1980) was an American poet. He first emerged on the literary scene in 1956 with "The Green Wall," a collection of formalist verse that was awarded the prestigious Yale Younger Poets Prize. 

Wright worked for many years years with his friend Minnesota poet, Robert Bly collaborating on the translation of world poets in the influential magazine The Fifties (later The Sixties). Robert Bly and his wife, Carol, invited Wright to spend some time with them on their Minnesota farm. Here Bly and Wright worked together on translating foreign poets and where Wright underwent a crucial rejuvenation of his creative spirit. "They loved me and they saved my life," Wright said. "I don't mean just the life of my poetry, either."

During the next ten years Wright would go on to pen some of the most beloved and frequently anthologized masterpieces of the century, such as "A Blessing," "Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio," and "I Am a Sioux Indian Brave, He Said to Me in Minneapolis."
Wright went on to write seven more books, and in 1972, his Collected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize.

Wright's son Franz Wright was also a poet. Together they are the only parent/child pair to have won a Pulitzer Prize in the same category.

In “A Blessing,” the landscape of the Midwest reveals itself as a positive, embracing force in the form of “two Indian ponies” that Wright and a friend (Bly, perhaps?) encounter in a pasture. This near fusion with unbridled nature generates such joy in Wright’s heart that he experiences a spiritual epiphany.
A Blessing 
by James Wright 

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break.

Into blossom.James Wright, “A Blessing” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose. Copyright 1990 by James Wright. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
Cranberry- Orange- Pistachio Biscotti
Cook's notes: Biscotti is perfect for holiday gift giving. Package it up on a tray or in a holiday container.
Recipe adapted from Real and Simple and makes 3 dozen.
Great with your morning cup of coffee or tea.

  • 2- 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 tsp.  baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup shelled roasted pistachios
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, orange zest and salt; set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until smooth. One at a time, beat in the eggs. Mix in the almond extract.
  • With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Add in the cranberries and pistachios and mix well.
  • Divide the dough in half and shape into two 10-by-2-inch logs on 2 pieces for floured waxed paper. Chill logs in refrigerator 45 minutes. 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel wax paper from logs and place each log a few inches apart on  baking sheet.
  • Bake until just golden around the edges and firm to the touch, 22 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.
  • Reduce oven to 300 degrees. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs into 1 inch-thick slices. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake until dry and crisp, 10 minutes per side.
  • Keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

1 comment:

  1. Even though I write poetry, I have so much to learn. Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem.