Friday, July 19, 2013

Jessica Piazza's Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Books & Booze is a mini-series of sorts here on TNBBC that will post every Friday in October. The participating authors were challenged to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 

Today, Jessica Piazza shares some of the poetry found in her new release Interrobang, and pairs them with awesome alcohol:

As a writer, one of the most important truisms I like to keep in mind is that it’s always cocktail-o’clock somewhere. Like my boozy literary forefathers and mothers before me (and, come to think of it, like my actual mother), I think that nothing gets the creative juices flowing like…well, actual juices flowing.  And then mixed with alcohol.  Yeah.

For this cocktail hour, we’re whipping up libations inspired by my new poetry collection, Interrobang, published by Red Hen Press in August 2013.  The book consists almost entirely of poems titled after strange clinical phobias (obsessive fear of asymmetrical things, anyone?) and oddball clinical philias (have a sexual hankering for ruin, perhaps?), so putting these drinks together is going to be one intense ride.

Let’s start where most drinking starts: happy hour.  It’s so easy to love the world once happy hour rolls around, so this first cocktail is based on my poem “Panophilia: love of everything.”  Like its inspiration, the Long Island Iced Tea, this concoction is bursting at the seams with way too much of a good thing.  With a little mint for fresh breath and a cherry garnish, you’ll be ready for all sorts of love.  A little sweet and a little spice makes it truly a match for the drinker who really, really loves everything…alcohol related. 

The Panophilia

1 part vodka

1 part gin

1 part white rum

1 part white tequila

1/2 part triple sec

1/4 part mint simple syrup

1 or 2 dashes of Tapatio sauce

Long splash of soda

Cherry for garnish

Combine the first seven ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and pour over ice. Add the soda and garnish.
Love of everything
Today this weather’s better than itself:
all background clamor, siren song, our schemed
and ill-conceiving strategies.   This shelf,
chaotic and precariously leaning
next to your appalling bed, a trove
of wonders hovering over us.  But love
itself I never deigned to love; all give
and giving in.  So I don’t understand
my drunkenness on scribble scrawled above
the mirror in the ladies’ room: You’re doomed.
Ecstatic that it’s almost true.  And though 
I should not love you yet—obliged to slow
and genuflect to sense or self-defense—
because of you, I’ll love everything else.

We’re sauced up.  We’ve gone from loving everything to really loving everything.  Or one thing.  Or one person.  Point is, flirting is in full effect with no end in sight, which is why our next drink is inspired by “Apodysophilia: love of undressing.”  Like me after a few drinks, this cocktail is sweet, sweet, sweet.  And every single item in this drink needs its own striptease, whether to escape its peel, rind or stalk, to get to your glass.  A harbinger for things to come, perhaps….

The Apodysophilia

2 parts tequila

1/3 part banana liqueur

1/3 part Midori melon liqueur

1/3 part fresh squeezed orange juice

1 splash ginger syrup

Pour all ingredients over ice and stir.
            Love of undressing
When many veils are pared to one what more
to gain obscured?  The dance must end.  One spin:
the veil has fallen to the floor.  One more:
the centrifuge that I become has pinned
you there.  Again, I win.  Undone, my clasp
has claws.  This sloughing of my clothes breaks laws
that aren’t written yet.  And now my grasp
is masquerading as embrace because
many a lip twixt cup and slip has tried
to bare my cloth-clad heart.  But what I hide
is hidden even more the more I show.
Still, all of this means yes.  The air’s desired
caress; I have no no.  You’re sure you know
me?  So, you’ve guessed.  There’s nothing to undress.

We’ve been drinking a while now, huh?  Things are slowing down.  Do we want to get up from the table / bar stool / couch?  Probably not.  A good time, I think, to visit the poem “Kopophobia: fear of fatigue” and its accompanying adult beverage.  The cocktail is inspired by the heart rate accelerating Jägerbomb, and both it and the poem pay homage to Hungary, a country whose tired masses survived political turmoil while bringing us the hellish concoction known as Unicum, Hungary’s national beverage.  Though there’s a bit of vodka to dilute it (yes, that’s right….the vodka actually dilutes it), the overpowering herbal sensation of Unicum (also known by its brand name Zwack) combined with the medicinal wail of Red Bull will wake you the hell up. 

And then maybe kill you.  

The Kopophobia

½ ounce of vodka

½ ounce Unicum (Zwack)

1 can of Red Bull energy drink

Pour the chilled Red Bull into a pint glass.  Mix the vodka and unicum into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well to chill.  Strain into a shot glass.  Drop the shot glass into the pint glass.  Drink.  Shimmy and shake like a maniac.  Try not to die.
Fear of fatigue
The pension in Prague had no alarm—
we missed the early train we stayed awake
to catch.   My fault, our doomed attempt to sleep
in shifts; I thought I wouldn’t doze mine off. 
For us, no clear Hungarian lake to see
the sun’s eclipse; it shadowed us outside
the train, out-dimmed by clouds.  We caught our breath
in Budapest.  We fell in love— adored
this city, thriving on its brokenness.
The bleak facades of burned-through tenements
were testament to how destruction does
not mean the thing destroyed was beautiful
before.  Those dragging weeks we built and razed 
each day, and nothing that we made endured.
Our statuary garden songs were frail
as monuments composed of candle wax.
Your sketchbook left on the Bazilka floor
like trash; my notebook sloughing ink in rain. 
It was a mess, but we make art that’s made
for drowning.  On the bridge by the Danube,
that storm deluged the city as we ran,
outpacing it until it caught us, sang
staccato rain into our hair and fled
too frantically ahead.  I never said
I loved that broken way you looked when things
went wrong.  I should have.  And I can’t forget
the fire-chewed bricks, the statues saved from riots;
how they braved ruin.  We could not survive it.

It’s been fun, kids.  I’d be happy to down a few with you the next time cocktail o’clock rolls around.  Until then, feel free to check out my book Interrobang, available at, Red Hen Press, and at least a few brave bookstores nationally.  You can also find it, alongside a treasure trove of information about me that you really don’t want, at


NOTE:  Panophilia was originally published in Rattle (December 2009). Kopophobia was published in National Poetry Review/American Poetry Journal #10. Apodysophilia was first published in Barrelhouse 9.

Jessica Piazza is the author of two poetry collections: “Interrobang” (Red Hen Press, 2013) and the chapbook “This is not a sky” (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, she’s currently a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. She is a co-founder of Bat City Review and Gold Line Press, and a contributing editor at The Offending Adam. Learn more at

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