Busara Blog

David H Sanders

Archive for August, 2011

I’m not a poet, I know it, but I still won a poetry prize!

I had a great treat in mid-August – a special tour, reception, and dinner at the glorious Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut.

I was there because I happened to have won the 2011 Philip Johnson Glass House/ Design Within Reach Modern Architecture Haiku Competition (bet you didn’t know there was such a thing!), and the prize included a private site tour and reception with photographer Todd Eberle, followed by a celebration dinner at the Roger Sherman Inn (held in Todd’s honor, certainly not mine, but I still recited the haiku!).

The day was beautiful, and finally getting to see the Glass House was a marvelous treat. It’s far more than a single house; it’s an extraordinarily designed estate with 14 structures, including two quite amazing galleries (sculpture and painting), several other outbuildings (including Philip Johnson’s studio and his doghouse), plus some wonderful landscaping and outdoor sculpture, including work by Donald Judd and a delightful pond-side folly.

The contest was to write a haiku on the theme, “Why I love modern architecture.” Here’s the haiku I submitted (did I mention that it won?):

“Why I Love Modern Architecture”
 In wood, glass, and steel,
modern buildings reflect me –
my form and function

Thanks to all at the Glass House and Design Within Reach for making such a grand fuss over 17 syllables.

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Bushnell’s thoughts on unreliable third-person narration

Interesting comments on narrative voice from J.T. Bushnell in the current issue of Poets and Writers. He stresses that narration can be unreliable in any point of view as long as it’s limited, and gives these guides for pulling off an unreliable third-person narrative voice:

“…you have to know not only who your characters are, but also who they pretend to be, not only what they care about but also what they say they care about, not only what ideas they live by but also how those ideas are false. You have to figure out why your characters are blind, and how they’ve managed to maintain their blindness. And you have to signal these disparities to the reader without revealing them to the character, or straining credibility by making the characters too blind. This creates other dynamics that are necessary in good storytelling, for example, character limitation and unrecognized truth, and moving between the former and the latter helps shape a story’s meaning, or theme.”

The start of a new blog (& recipe!)

Well, here it is…my first blog post. Not a big event, I know (it’s the fallen tree in the woods that nobody hears), but significant in my own little world. I am a notably late adopter (still no flat-screen TV, no cell phone), and I am also an intensely private person (the whole social-media world is difficult for me), so it has taken me a long time to become a blogger.  But — perhaps better late than never — here I am.

A friend of mine is a novelist who writes under the name of Sam Gridley (“under the name of” always makes me think of Winnie-the-Pooh, who lived in the forest under the name of “Sanders”). Mr. Gridley has an excellent blog called “The News from Gridleyville,” which you should check out here.

In his “About” section, Gridley recreates a very funny, very reluctant, conversation with his agent about blogging. The conversation ends with a suggestion for producing an online supplement of one-handed recipes so that novel readers can cook without putting their books down.

Gridley notes that the reason he created his blog was because his agent said to. I confess to a similar reason (sans agent) for starting this one. So many of my writing friends have told me that a blog is a necessity that I have finally bowed to the mother of invention and joined the blogosphere.

Gridley has yet to include a recipe in his blog, but I’m going to start right off with one.

This is a recipe for Groundnut Stew, a West African recipe that comes from the cookbook Ethnic Cuisine by Elizabeth Rozin. Liz is the late mother of Seth Rozin, the founder and director of InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia. Seth is not only a terrific director and playwright, he is also a gifted visual artist (one of his musician paintings is a treasured wedding present). Seth did the wonderful illustrations for his mother’s cookbook, and a few years back he also illustrated a story of mine that was in the Minnesota literary review, The Talking Stick.


That piece, “The Cook in the Kitchen, Cooking a Chicken” was an excerpt from an early draft of my novel-in-progress, Busara Road, which is about an American boy living at a Quaker mission in Kenya in the sixties, shortly after independence. The novel excerpt included a description of making the Kenyan dish kuku na mkate, or chicken stew with bread.

This recipe calls for beef, but I imagine it would work well with kuku too:

Groundnut Stew

2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2-2½ pounds lean beef, cut in 1-inch cubes
4 red and/or green sweet peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, mashed
15-ounce can tomato sauce (2 cups)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
½ cup smooth peanut butter

  1. In heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat oil, add onions, and saute until onions are soft
  2. Add beef cubes and brown on all sides.
  3. Add all other ingredients except peanut better, mix well, and cook, covered, over low to moderate heat for about 2 hours or until beef is tender.
  4. Add peanut butter and stir to blend well. Continue to cook, uncovered, until sauce is reduced and thickened, about one hour. Serve stew with plain rice. Serves 4-6.

Happy eating!