Lunch Date: South Indian food with Madeline DeFrees

(Once in a while, I take a new book with me to lunch and give it a half an hour or so to grab my attention. Lunch Date is my judgment on that speed-dating experience.)

Who’s your date today? Blue Dusk: New & Selected Poems 1951-2001, by Madeline DeFrees.

Where’d you go? Dashkin South Indian Bistro, in downtown Kirkland. (Yes, it's my second Indian restaurant in as many weeks, but let me tell you: if your weekend hobby is walking to the Seattle suburbs, Indian restaurants are almost always your best bet if you want good food from a non-franchise restaurant.)

What’d you eat? I had the Dakshin Breakfast Box ($10.95), a sampler plate with a mini masala dosa, medhu vada, and sambhar, among other delights.

How was the food? Delicious! My only other experience with South Indian food is the beloved Chili's in the University District, and Dashkin is even better than that: the food was spicy and sweet, the dosa was fried but not heavy, and the presentation was excellent.

What does your date say about itself?

Contradiction and ambiguity are essential to the poetry of Madeline DeFrees. Her work is concentrated, multi-layered, spliced with humor and characterized by a passionate interest in every aspect of words: their literal and figurative meanings and associations; their histories, usage, disappearances, and resurrections. In her recent poems she approaches complex subjects with a new clarity, the dividend of a long investment in the art of writing.

Is there a representative quote? Try this, from "Shackleton":

Two faces of the same coin: poet and explorer. This

is Shackleton's third

expedition to the Antarctic since he had a vision

of the ice — still more, of isolation.

Will you two end up in bed together? Yes. I've been reading through DeFrees's body of work since she passed away last year, and I've been continually impressed with her craft. I've also become more convinced of her important place in the Seattle poetic tradition. She's thoughtful and earnest and intelligent and a little bit prickly, just like the best of our poets. I think that Blue Dusk is perhaps the best and most accessible of her books for those looking to experience DeFrees for the first time. It's a book I'll be taking with me in my walks around the region for many years to come.