Artichoke Pickle Passion: A Sonnet
Beverly Fields Burnette
In southern springs we dug for artichokes
In Miz Olivia's tall and weedy yard.
She dipped her snuff, but never, ever smoked;
At eighty-five, she wasn't avant-garde.
Her 'bacco spittings grew the vegetable;
Well nourished were the tubers, strong, the stalks.
And even though their worth was questionable,
With hoe in hand, we dug, postponing talk.
Once washed, soaked, sliced, they met some torrid brine.
Aromas flew on steamy clouds of heat.
When canned, the waiting was the longest time.
How many weeks or months before we eat?
In southern springs, we dug the precious root,
And still, this day, it is my passion fruit.
Catch the Fire!!!: A Cross-Generational Anthology of
Contemporary African-American Poetry, Derrick I.M.
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Burnette is a storyteller (current President of the N.C.
Association of Black Storytellers), a poet and school
social worker. Her programs/performances consist of fun,
creative ways of combining cultural insights with
storytelling/folktales, and original and historical
poetry for children and/or general audiences. She has
led character education, self-esteem and drug prevention
programs for churches and schools. Ms. Burnette enjoys
teaching and telling folktales in the guise of Harlem
Renaissance folklorist/anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston.
Ms. Burnette is published in several national poetry
anthologies. In 2001 and 2003 she wrote poems for the
National Public Radio/PRI program "A Season's Griot",
and in 2003 read her own poem on this program. She often
collaborates/performs with other storytellers,
drummers/musicians and poets.
Click here for information about booking Beverly Fields
Burnette as a Touring Artist
/ photo right above Stonewall
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On Saturday, I
just happened to be googling myself . . . just for fun .
. . and I found that a previously published poem of
mine, “Artichoke Pickle Passion” had been printed in
the Washington Post on April 17th.
I was surprised and
thrilled!!!! This was a poem that I had written about
10+ yrs. ago, and it was a memory poem about a time in
the 1950s in Rocky Mount, NC, when my sister and I went
with our aunt to dig up something called "artichokes."
The yard we went
into belonged to a soft spoken elderly lady named Miz
Olivia...who lived up the street. Miz Olivia always sat
on the front porch of her duplex wood frame
apartment...or could be found leaning over the banister
on her back porch watching people and traffic. She
usually wore a "stocking cap" on her head, a faded
flowered dress, reddish-toned stocking that were
rolled at the top of the calf of her leg, and knotted
just below her knee,...and she always had her lip full
I recall not
wanting to go dig in that yard, because all day long,
she was spitting . . . spitting out her ever-present
snuff . . . spitting out that "tobacco juice!" But, as
children, we followed instructions, and we went and dug
anyway. When we'd dug up those artichokes, and after
they were transformed into a wonderful pickle, I could
NOT get enough of them! (Smile)
afternoon in 1972, when I was pregnant with my first
child, I asked my husband to drive me to Rocky
Mount (120 miles round trip from our home in Kinston) so
that I could buy some artichoke pickle from a
local gourmet grocery store. He said "no", as he didn't
realize how badly I craved those pickles. Therefore, I
called my mother in Rocky Mount, and asked her if she
would go to the store and buy two quarts of artichoke
pickle for me, and then send them to me on a Trailways
Bus that afternoon. She readily agreed ....and about 4
hrs later, I went down to the bus station and picked up
my pickle package. Needless to say, I pigged out all
weekend, until I was sick, yet happy!
Years later, as I
researched the origin of artichokes for this poem,
I learned that this vegetable was not a "true"
artichoke, but was the root of sunflowers. There is a
whole farm for growing and processing them in Hamilton,
NC and I'm still a consumer, no pun intended!
From NC State Dept. of Horticultural Science. The
Jerusalem artichoke grows in most areas of North
Carolina and is often used for pickling purposes. The
fresh tuber tastes like a water chestnut and is used in
salads. Tubers can also be cooked like potatoes. The
edible portion of this member of the sunflower family is
the tuber or swollen end of an underground stem, which
in some respects resembles a potato.
Thanks for letting
me share this poem and memory with you. The article that
was in the Washington Post [04/17/2008]
last Thursday is shown below.
Beverly Fields Burnette,
/ Storyteller / School Social Worker/ Rocky Mount
North Carolina Arts Council | Beverly Fields Burnette
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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura María Agustín
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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posted 26 April 2008