Welcome to Sunday Morning Lyricality, featuring a weekly song or poem by a Minnesota writer. Kelly Travis is our guest editor

for December—the month of Hanukah, Kwanza, the winter Solstice, and Christmas, the season of candles and lights, and the darkest month of the year. Darkness is sometimes associated with evil, but good, even necessary things happen in the dark. Seeds germinate underground. Night allows us to see stars and moon, makes candlelight inviting, and nudges us into restorative sleep. The womb is dark. Poetry questions our assumptions and biases, urges us to accept complexity. And so this month’s poems invite us to live with and honor the dark, those places of uncomfortable encounter with helplessness and fear, pain and sorrow, grief and rage. Without darkness, renewal doesn’t happen, and concepts like light and hope lose their meaning. 

One of the most famous villanelle poem’s is Dylan Thomas’ Do not go gentle into that good night, with the repeated lines “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” A contemporary take on the villanelle form is KateLynn Hibbard’s poem To Make Baking Powder, with its fire-related words stove, burn, stoke, hungry baking up some subtle feminist rage, felt by a subservient wife of the settler colonial era in midwest America, when gender role restrictions limited women’s opportunities and choices. I sense the speaker’s exhaustion in this poem and certainly her under-appreciation, but she is going to bite her tongue. Kitchens were the heart of the house in a time when just getting food on the table was full-time, exhausting, relentless, and often unappreciated work. KateLynn’s poem is reminiscent of my Grandma always busy cooking or baking for someone, always cleaning up after a meal and always worried about getting ready for the next one. Grandma would never express her rage if she had any, but she would often say her cream puffs were not as appealing as they should be or her hot-dish did not turn out quite right. If Grandma had ever expressed her anger or frustration, her eaters would not know what to say. In my memory, we digested her delicious kitchen creations with appreciation, but it wasn’t that way for all women, and who knows if it was always that way for her.   

Kelly Travis

To Make Baking Powder Biscuits
KateLynn Hibbard

Gather as much of the cow wood as you can
You will use quite a lot as it burns pretty fast
First stoke the stove and then go wash your hands

Figure two or three for a fairly hungry man
You could try to make extra but the dough don’t last 
Gather as much of the cow wood as you can

You will need a quart of flour for every pan
Saleratus and spoon full of butter makes the best
Stoke up the stove and wash your hands again

Cut out half a dozen with the top of the powder can
Try to piece another small one from what’s left
Gather as much of the cow wood as you can

You have to keep on stoking ‘til they’re done
Pierce them with a broom straw first to test
Then stoke the stove and wash your hands again

And now you’re done with breakfast. Plan
To start your dinner biscuits in another hour at best
So gather as much of the cow wood as you can
And stoke the stove, and wash your hands again


Visit KateLynn Hibbard’s website, where her bio reads: “KateLynn Hibbard’s first book of poems, Sleeping Upside Down (Silverfish Press 2006), won the Gerald Cable Book Award. Her second collection, Sweet Weight, was released by Tiger Bark Press in 2012. She is editor of When We Become Weavers: Queer Female Poets on the Midwest Experience (Squares & Rebels Press, 2012). Other honors include the Aestrea Foundation’s Lesbian Writing Finalist Award, a McKnight Artist Fellowship in Poetry, two Minnesota State Arts Board Initiative Grants, a Jerome Foundation Travel Grant, and residencies at Hedgebrook and the Cornucopia Arts Council. A long-time singer with One Voice, Minnesota’s LGBTQA mixed chorus, and a professor of writing and women’s history at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, she lives with many pets and her spouse Jan in Saint Paul.”

“To Make Baking Powder Biscuits” from Simples ©2018 by KateLynn Hibbard, published by Howling Bird Press. Appears with the permission of the author.