“Sustaining the Creative Life
by using Small Beans”
A Review of
Rumors of Water:
Thoughts on Creativity & Writing
By L.L. Barkat
Review by Denise Frame Harlan.
The secret of the prolific writer: to agree to use… the ingredients at hand.
Small beans. A scourge of pantry moths eats its way through L.L.Barkat’s collection of grains, leaving only the Japanese adzuki beans. Thus the adzuki—the small beans—become a substitute in all recipes. One bean salad recipe requires tomatoes and cider vinegar, for which the poet substitutes oranges and mint, rendering the final dish into something new and beyond duplication. That is how a poet cooks: with a hint of desperation, perhaps, but also with flourish of grace, and confidence enough in the ingredients at hand. We use what we have. It’s all we can do.
One year ago, Barkat’s God in the Yard blew me outdoors to contemplate spiritual discipline that seemed like an un-discipline, a school of wonder. This year’s Rumors of Water chases me back to my work life and parenting life. Barkat says she is trying to have a conversation about why she can’t seem to write in a sustained way. Yet she keeps writing. When children interrupt her writing time, Barkat transcribes their questions. When the kitchen sink clogs, she sets up a dishwashing station in the back yard, where children beg to rinse dishes with the garden hose, turning a chore into play.
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