Cooking with the Muse by Washington Square

This is our most delicious post yet, combining two of my favorite things—poetry and food! We're going to share with you a few odes and a recipe, courtesy of Stephen Massimilla and Myra Kornfeld, from their new book, Cooking with the Muse.  

Very recently published by Tupelo Press, the cookbook features seasonal recipes and culinary poems, as well as essays, lore, and notes on the poetry of food. Kornfeld is a chef, author, and cooking instructor, and Massimilla is an award-winning poet, artist, and scholar. (Disclaimer: he was also my freshman year Modern Poetry professor, and taught me most of what I know about 20th century poetry. Thanks, Prof. Mass.) 
The recipe we've chosen is a spring onion tart. Mmm. Now is the perfect time to get spring onions, so run to the nearest farmer's market. But first read this delectable excerpt from Cooking with the Muse

                                                                                                —Alisha Kaplan                                                                            


For it is every Cook’s Opinion,
No savory Dish without an Onion

from Martial’s “Xenia 18,”
Jonathan Swift translation

You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised all that exists,
onion, but to me, you are
more precious than a bird
with resplendent feathers,
in my watery eyes a celestial globe, 
a platinum chalice, 
the immobile dance
of the snowy anemone

and the earth’s fragrance lives
within your crystalline essence.

Stephen Massimilla,
    after an homage to Pablo Neruda


Spring Onion Tart

This is a dish that the ancient Roman author Apicius—who tells us to mix eggs with honey, milk, and cream and cook them over a slow fire to make a custard—would surely approve of. But there is a new development. Poet Naomi Shihab Nye refers to the onion as “one of nature’s small forgotten miracles” since it has traveled the world from Egypt to Greece to Italy, but in recent history has rarely played a starring role. This savory tart features what are known as “spring onions,” fresh onions that have not yet grown the papery outer sheath. All parts—from the tender red or white bulbs to the long green shoots—are edible, and they are all featured here. Even so, you could make a delicious version with more mature onions mixed with scallions. 
    You sweat the sliced bulb with garlic until juicy, then add the onion greens and cook until everything is caramelized. Mixed with egg yolks and a bit of milk and cream, then topped with a smattering of Parmesan, this custardy concoction is at once smooth, delicate and, yes, oniony. Pearly gold, softer, and lighter than a quiche, a perfect balance of sweet and savory, it dissolves in your mouth so fast that you’ll find yourself reaching for seconds.
    Bake this in a 9-inch pie plate for best results. You’ll have two cups of caramelized onions, so set aside one cup for another tart.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for preparing the pan
6 cups thin sauté-sliced red onions (preferably spring onions; 1 3/4 pounds / 3 medium-large; see page 35 and the Cook’s Note)
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups thinly sliced spring onion greens or scallions
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
8 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (2 ounces)


1. Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir together and cover. Cook covered, raising the lid to stir from time to time, until the onions have become very juicy, about 10 minutes. 
2. Uncover; add the onion greens and stir to combine. Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are completely caramelized. 
3. Stir in the vinegar and honey. Transfer to a measuring cup. You should have 2 cups of the rich onion jam. Set aside 1 cup for another tart.
4. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Lightly oil a 9-inch pie plate.
5. Whisk together the yolks, cream, milk, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl until well combined. Stir in 1 cup of the onions and combine well. Pour into the pie plate. Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until set.
6. You can serve the tart right away. Or chill the tart for a couple of hours (or up to 3 days) and reheat in a 350˚F oven to serve.


The Traveling Onion
by Naomi Shihab Nye

“It is believed that the onion originally came from India. In Egypt it was an
object of worship—why I haven’t been able to find out. From Egypt the onion
entered Greece and on to Italy, thence into all of Europe.” 

—Better Living Cookbook

When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way the knife enters onion
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.
And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,



Spotlight on Issue 37 by Washington Square

Assistant Fiction Editor Kate Doyle discusses "Euthanasia Coaster" by Laura Maylene Walter


"It was an engineering wonder, a spectacle of physics topped with rainbow-colored flags whipping in the wind." The narrator is describing the titular theme park ride of "Euthanasia Coaster", but could easily be talking about this story—a tense, glittery work of very short fiction, precisely coiled, controlled, then released to run its course. 

Walter's first sentence is emblematic of her story's concision and verve: "My girlfriend set her sights on the euthanasia coaster from the beginning, when it was first built to its wobbling height on the seaside cliffs outside of town." We prickle with dark curiosity: What's this relationship? Who's speaking? What does it mean for them, individually and together, that she has her "sights set"? Exactly where on the figurative-literal spectrum does this thrill ride's name fall? How dire is the couple's situation, how on the brink of demise are they? And how entwined are their individual fates—or is their fate shared, even in making their choices apart? 

"What's so hard about that first sentence is that you're stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence," says Joan Didion. This one is an intimate sentence that remembers a moment in a relationship. And a potent sentence that, in a few words, builds a roller coaster, gives it a sinister name, and hangs it over the ocean, precarious on a cliffside where it shivers, full of narrative potential and seeming almost about to drop into the ocean. Story is here, poised to run devastatingly from this one sentence; we know it by the way the narrator says "from the beginning." Beginnings come paired with endings. Something won't make it here, something is falling into the abyss.


You can read Laura Maylene Walter's story here and purchase the issue here.



Spotlight on Issue 37 by Washington Square

Assistant Poetry Editor Jessica Marion Modi discusses three poems by Chus Pato

Issue 37’s publication of Chus Pato’s “Three Poems from Flesh of Leviathantranslated by Erín Moure could not come at a better time. Pato just published her first collection in the US, Flesh of Leviathan, and Moure was recently awarded the 2016-2017 Woodberry Creative Fellowship.

On top of the writers’ accomplishments, the poems and their deft translations are breathtaking. As the title denotes, they take place after, in the Talmud, God serves the flesh of the monster Leviathan to the Just after the final judgement. The poems act as a kind of post-apocalyptic reckoning of the present and what’s to come:


[a] poem/would be a limit

simultaneously exception and paradigm

written not just with names, but with the passions that dictate names


After everything, including nomenclature, has been wiped clean, these lyrics attempt to remake the rules and limits of poetry with the irregular line lengths and abrupt back-slash ceasuras. The language almost cracks and fractures under the pressure of exploring a new sonic and geographic world. In spare images, we bear witness to the speaker (or the entire surviving population) going to extremes and back.


            Whosoever crosses the wilds and returns

            admits to no one

            dreams of the voice

            and attuned to the voice



I certainly felt revitalized while reading. 


You can read Chus Pato's poems here and purchase Issue 37 here.

Spotlight on Issue 37 by Washington Square


It's easy to write about the passage of time. Throw a couple em-dashes into a Word document, maybe a double space break, and leave your readers grasping for the years skipped over. Harder is making them feel like their lives are passing, having readers close your story and touch a mirror, like Catherine Lacey's "No One Knows What" often drove me to do while we finalized Washington Square Review #37. This piece moved us, is what I'm saying. "Some years later," it starts, and then dispenses the sort of wisdom that can only be accessed with age.

Time is a procession of moments, and whether they're spent at the grocery store or lying in bed next to your deceased husband they all move at the same speed. We published a lot of short fiction in this issue, not because we got restless or didn't love many of the longer pieces we were sent, but because they reminded us how little it takes to miss the important stuff. Catherine Lacey's unnamed protagonist grows old in about the time it takes to brush your teeth. Rinse. Spit. Lift your head back up to the mirror. Do you look younger now, or older? Are you sure?


You can read Catherine Lacey's story here and purchase Issue 37 here.

Issue 37 Launch Party! by Washington Square

New Yorkers, please join us this Saturday night for the launch party of our latest issue! Readings by Amy Hempel and Tommy Pico. Beer and wine provided. And, of course, copies of the issue for sale. Co-sponsored with the PEN World Voices Festival.

Amy Hempel is the author of four short story collections, later gathered and published in a single volume by Scribner, "The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel" (2006). Described in The New York Times Book Review as "You read her stories and wonder, Why are they so wonderful? The answer comes to you at the very end of this volume, in a line toward the close of 'Offertory.' 'Because a human being made this.' That's all you need to know. Take it slowly. You'll see what I mean."

Tommy Pico is the founder and editor-in-chief of birdsong and the author of "absentMINDR" (VERBALVISUAL, 2014). You can read some of his poems here, here, here, and elsewhere.


RSVP here on Facebook!

Saturday, April 30th, 2016. 7 PM.

Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House

58 West 10th St (Between 5th & 6th Avenues)

Spotlight on Issue 37 by Washington Square

Poetry Editor Linda Harris Dolan discusses two poems by Meghan O'Rourke


It wasn't difficult choosing Meghan O’Rourke’s “Taxonomy” and “Poem (Problem)” for Issue 37. In these two poems, O’Rourke expresses the same intellectual and emotional reckoning that first drew me to her memoir, The Long Goodbye.

Make a list of what

no one could take from you—


OK, it’s a short list—

So begins “Taxonomy.” The poem holds the fragments of a life post-loss. And it lives up to its name, creating a space where multiple registers are held. O’Rourke moves deftly from a straight-forward acquiescence, “It’s hard to see lessons here,” to vivid, emotive images: “years of gaudy in the grass, / lemonade and orange crush.” Her stunning linguistic texture and candid ruminations are each in service of the other. The voice gains both our investment and our trust. It’s intelligent, adept, and emotionally honest.

And as for “Poem (Problem)” I don’t think there’s anything I can say to do it justice. Just read it. In three lines, she says it all.


You can purchase Issue 37 here.

Mike and Kate Talk Books Again by Washington Square

Mike, Kate, and Nico. This is not their dog.

Mike, Kate, and Nico. This is not their dog.

Another installment of the fiction editor and assistant editor talking about books, whether social media changes some of the pleasures of reading, emergency yoga, and what, in Rick Moody's opinion, is the only true experimental book of the last thousand years.

Michael Sarinsky - 5:08 PM
Hi Kate!

Kate Doyle - 5:08 PM
Hi Mike!
Looks like we still know each other

Michael Sarinsky - 5:09 PM
That must be such a relief for our audience, that we haven't fallen out of touch. I know we left a real cliffhanger re: that in our last chat

Kate Doyle - 5:09 PM
We were going to establish where we're writing from
Where are you, Mike?

Michael Sarinsky - 5:09 PM
Yes, where are you?

Kate Doyle - 5:10 PM
He asked himself

Michael Sarinsky - 5:10 PM
Ok fine, I'll go first. I'm facing my kitchen, listening to the "Hit List" channel on my tv

Kate Doyle - 5:11 PM
I'm at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, thank you for asking
The temperature is unbearable

Michael Sarinsky - 5:12 PM
How is it there today? Thursdays are my days off from the House

Kate Doyle - 5:13 PM
I answered your question before you even asked it

Michael Sarinsky - 5:13 PM
We need to stop sending messages at the exact same time. We're making me look like an idiot
I can't even say that with a straight face, sorry. Like I need your help making me "look" like an idiot. Please.

Kate Doyle - 5:14 PM
Redact that!

Michael Sarinsky - 5:14 PM
Let's talk about books

Kate Doyle - 5:14 PM
Okay, I'll ask first
I started to ask you recently about fiction
I feel so inarticulate today
I'm trying to find the right words
About the little window on a life you get when you read a book
Do you think the internet, and facebook, and all that stuff, has made this little thrill of reading a little less exciting? Or at least changed what we're after when we write and read?

Michael Sarinsky - 5:24 PM
There's a line in The Golden Notebook, which we read for class yesterday, that says: "we read novels for information about areas of life we don't know," and I think your point, which makes some intuitive sense, is that there's just less we don't know now, right?

Kate Doyle - 5:25 PM
About people's lives, particularly

Michael Sarinsky - 5:27 PM
The problem is I don't really agree with the quote. We can read for so many other pleasures. Great language. The successful articulation of things we feel but can't say. Fantasy. That Doris Lessing quote makes fiction sound journalistic, but I usually read to learn about the human condition, which I don't think Facebook is opening any doors into.

Kate Doyle - 5:28 PM
Coincidentally, [OnSqu Managing Editor] Alisa is in the room with me, and just said to someone else "Michael Sarinsky says nothing is interesting"
She's referring to AWP, but I didn't know that

Michael Sarinsky - 5:29 PM
Yes, everyone come to the NYU table at AWP, where I will be uninterested in your thoughts. We're also hosting a reception that Friday night

Kate Doyle - 5:30 PM
You're right that we read for other things, but I don't think that makes Lessing's quote less true. We do read for the areas of life we don't know. We just don't only read for that.

Michael Sarinsky - 5:30 PM
That's surely fair

Kate Doyle - 5:31 PM
If facebook was a platform for everyone to use language in great inventive ways, annoyingly much (?), that might similarly take away from fiction's appeal, a little

Michael Sarinsky - 5:32 PM
I guess I think the internet is kinda anti-novelistic in that it trades in basically unfiltered minutia. The notion that your every thought, pictures of your dinner, are ripe for consumption, has to be an awful way to conceive of a novel. So I don't see Facebook competing for space with literature. But of course that doesn't answer your question

Kate Doyle - 5:32 PM
Right, I don't mean will it actually replace the novel
It's something about the quotidian, right? Which facebook trades in, and so does writing (often). I'm remembering this feeling, as a child, reading Little House on the Prairie, and being so delighted to be swept up in the details of an unfamiliar daily life.
I don't get quite the same thrill anymore

Michael Sarinsky - 5:38 PM
Part of the irony here is that the internet seems more often to sweep you up in a familiar daily life, rather than an unfamiliar one. Rarely is anyone posting something so different, so out there, as to actually surprise you
Do you think losing that feeling is just a function of, like, aging? Is that the non-judgy term for growing up?

Kate Doyle - 5:39 PM
Right, I was just about to say that.
About growing up.
My adolescence aligns too neatly with the advent of facebook to be a good example. But I do think maybe we take less joy in ...
I don't know, I just wonder if we take something for granted that we didn't used to
About the privilege of intimacy with someone's life.

Michael Sarinsky - 5:44 PM
That feels so true, yes. I just worry that it's a false intimacy. You curate your Facebook in opposition to how a good novel should feel totally exposing, like the main character wouldn't want you to read it.

Kate Doyle - 5:44 PM
It's certainly false
On the whole
But then, there is something there that isn't false, too. There is something we take pleasure in there, that's real -- I don't know, it's occasionally sort of sweet or compelling to see someone's breakfast on facebook, if you have some curiosity about that person, whether that curiosity comes from liking them or not liking them or knowing them or not knowing them.

Michael Sarinsky - 5:47 PM
Yeah, I don't know. "Nothing is interesting" - me.

Kate Doyle - 5:47 PM
And pre-internet, there was no way you'd ever see that breakfast.
And so you might be able to write about someone making breakfast? But now maybe you can't?
Though that's not a nuanced way of getting at it.
Joyce Carol Oates, in workshop last semester, always surprised me with how much she would talk about "material"
Here in the MFA we mostly talk about how a story is told, how it is constructed, how it's working, right?
But she would say "What fascinating material for a story" which is somewhere close to saying this story is giving me access to something, a world, a life, and I value that in itself
That feels like a rare thing to hear... But that might also just be grad school.
Do you think it's always true that in a good novel, the main character wouldn't want you to read it?

Michael Sarinsky - 5:53 PM
Well, I wonder though if every book opens you up to a new world, sort of by definition. The way you were saying that someone's breakfast is new information. The "world" of a book should probably be the narrator's interior, rather than the setting or the plot. If that makes any sense. And then I don't know how much weight to accord JCO's point. I think I basically believe that anything can be written well. Maybe that's the MFA talking.

Kate Doyle - 5:53 PM
Ah! But you just said "The notion that your every thought, pictures of your dinner, are ripe for consumption, has to be an awful way to conceive of a novel."
Which I was preparing to quarrel with

Michael Sarinsky - 5:54 PM
Yes, I think for a book to be really good, it has to trade in the embarrassing, the difficult to talk about. I suppose the character could be ok with you hearing it, but shamelessness would have to be a character trait.
Just, you know, so we can have two different conversations at once.

Kate Doyle - 5:54 PM
Yeah we're all over the place
We'll publish this formatted as a word-web, choose-your-own-adventure

Michael Sarinsky - 5:56 PM
Yeah, click on any word for Kate and Mike's full unedited digression on that topic
Let me respond to your last point? I think it's a good one.

Kate Doyle - 5:56 PM
Go for it.
My point that I was going to argue with you? One of my favorite points.
Come back!

Michael Sarinsky - 6:02 PM
Sorry, [Web & PR Editor] Laura called
I think no doubt your breakfast could make for a good book if it's written well. I just haven't seen a livestream of thoughts about someone's day that's interesting enough to really keep reading. It's not quite the subject matter, so much as the form? The book has to be somehow intentional, has to be about something. Mere access can't be enough, can it?

Kate Doyle - 6:05 PM
Have you just challenged me to write a facebook account?
If I did with intention, could I make it literary?

Michael Sarinsky - 6:08 PM
Like a story structured as a Facebook newsfeed? Yes, do it. But the fact that you have to write it, rather than just pull it from the zillions of Facebook accounts that already exist, kinda proves that Facebook isn't doing a lot of literary work. Not as in writing good books - as in even affecting the literary status quo. Any more than letters did, or the telephone.

Kate Doyle - 6:09 PM
No, I actually meant to start a facebook account and write in it/with it.

Michael Sarinsky - 6:09 PM
Sure, go for it
Rick Moody said in class yesterday that the only truly experimental book of the last thousand years is Selected Tweets by Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez, so, you know.

Kate Doyle - 6:10 PM
Oh dear
But everything is affecting the literary status quo, no?
I can't believe that the internet, changing everything that it has, has left reading alone

Michael Sarinsky - 6:14 PM
But like, what has the internet done that can't be seen in fiction from a hundred years ago? Fiction for people with short attention spans, that changes voices, deals in minutia, and knows seemingly everything - that's not new. I'm honestly asking, because you have to basically be right but I don't know how.

Kate Doyle - 6:15 PM
Again, coincidentally, everyone in this room is talking about facebook
"I'm hiding everyone I don't care about."
"Oh really? I want to know everyone's business"
"The downside is, now that I've hidden everyone I don't like, facebook is really interesting all the time." 

Michael Sarinsky6:16 PM
This is truly the seventh circle

Kate Doyle - 6:16 PM
I can't prove it to you, perhaps
I more mean, the internet has changed us so it has to have changed writing and reading
Much as any event or development in history has to have done
And then we all get to theorize about how

Michael Sarinsky - 6:17 PM
Yeah, that always feels tautological. Doesn't "the internet has changed us so it has to have changed how much I love my mother" have the same logical integrity?

Kate Doyle - 6:18 PM
Not how much, but how.
It might have. It's interesting to think about. It's weird, because I was just writing to you an example involving texting one's parents.
"I just find myself wondering if I still lived in a world where I couldn't text my parents and immediately hear what they're doing, would I spend more imaginative energy on that? Wouldn't that change how I write, the things that concern me? Just an example."
I'm saying everything affects everything. But you had other questions for us. I didn't mean to monopolize this thing.

Michael Sarinsky - 6:21 PM
Here's a question I'd written down last time. Maybe it has a quicker response. What book are you most embarrassed to have not yet read?

Kate Doyle - 6:22 PM
Unexpectedly, I have to go. Can I think on this and write back to you in a bit?

Michael Sarinsky - 6:23 PM
I will allow that

Kate Doyle - 9:47 AM
I'm embarrassed that I only read half of Anna Karenina
Recently in office hours I was lightly shamed for not having read Grace Paley

Michael Sarinsky - 9:53 AM
Considering the mode I like to affiliate myself with, I'm ashamed never to've read Ulysses. But then there's also, like, I've never picked up Toni Morrison, which seems like high literary treason

Michael Sarinsky - 2:22 PM
I just found out that you cut short our chat last night because you were invited to an emergency yoga session, and so you've left me no choice but to say: you're fired.

Nico belongs to Angelo Nikolopoulos, program administrator at the NYU Creative Writing Program.