Interview in the Wellesley Magazine by Paula Butturini ’73 

Interview in the Wellesley Magazine by Paula Butturini ’73 

Kendra Tanacea ’88
A Filament Burns in Blue Degrees
Lost Horse Press
78 pages, $18

Kendra Tanacea ’88, a poet and full-time practicing trial lawyer, has a forceful new book out. An English major at Wellesley, Tanacea also has an M.F.A. in writing and literature, and an infectious, throaty laugh. After Garrison Keillor recently featured two of her poems on his Writer’s Almanac show, she laughingly said, “I should be a playwright—it was such a thrill to hear it.”

Why do you write?

I read constantly. Sometimes I want to argue back at an essay or article, but with a poem. Other times, stories move me and I want to add my feelings to the mix, so I will use that story as a springboard and see where my writing takes me. Writing is inward and exploratory. It has no limits. You can imagine and think whatever you want to. That’s why I love it. It allows me to romp around in my own mind and discover.

Poetry, with its imaginative leaps and images, permits readers to add their own imaginings and associations to the poem, so the meaning of a poem becomes a unique collaboration between the writer and each reader.

What’s your writing practice?

I get up early when it’s dark and quiet, and write when I’m still groggy and in the beautiful place between sleeping and waking. My initial outpourings are handwritten in a notebook. I only use the computer when I’m crafting the poem.

I also enjoy writing with a group of local writers, Laguna Writers, inspired by prompts and other participants. As these workshops are at the end of the day, my writing collects images from my surroundings, grafted to the particular concerns of that day.

Why does poetry matter?

A great example is Maggie Smith’s “Good Bones,” which recently went viral. The poem’s speaker struggles to keep the horrors of this world from her children and ultimately speaks of hope. Assuming the role of a real estate agent, Smith ends with:

I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

It’s a smart, simple, painful/hopeful poem that acknowledges all the wrongs and injustices, and quietly implores the reader to “renovate” this world, to revive its beauty.

By Paula Butturini ’73 | Butturini, a writer based in Connecticut, is the author of Keeping the Feast: One Couple’s Story of Love, Food, and Healing.

Garrison Keillor reads "Making Risotto for Dinner When His Ex-Wife Calls" on the Writer's Almanac

Garrison Keillor reads "Making Risotto for Dinner When His Ex-Wife Calls" on the Writer's Almanac

Making Risotto for Dinner When His Ex-Wife Calls

by Kendra Tanacea

While I mince an onion, he talks with her,
planning their son’s bar mitzvah, sounding
so familiar, so nuts and bolts. Turning up the gas flame,
I sauté the onion translucent. Butter sizzles, foams,
as they go over the invitation list, names I’ve never heard.

Adding a cup of Arborio, I think of white rice
thrown high in the air by the fistful. I pour
two glasses of chardonnay, one for the risotto,
one for myself, sip, then gulp. Blend.

The band, flowers, menu?
Heady, I stare at the recipe to orient myself, to understand
what I am doing: Add broth, cup by cup, until absorbed.
Add Parmesan. Serve immediately.

The word immediately catches my eye,
but their conversation continues, then his son
gets on the line and hangs up on him,
as I stir and stir, holding the wooden spoon.

“Making Risotto for Dinner When His Ex-Wife Calls” by Kendra Tanacea from A Filament Burns in Blue Degrees. © Lost Horse Press, 2017. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)