Jen Feroze on Capturing Her Family’s Christmas Eve Cheeseboard Tradition in a Haibun

Capsule Stories Winter 2021 Edition laying flat on a white marble surface. To the book's left is a brown wooden cheeseboard with two chunks of cheese sitting on it.

Jen Feroze (she/her) lives by the sea in Essex, United Kingdom, with her husband and two small sleep thieves. Her work has recently appeared in Doghouse Press, Gingernut magazine, The Madrigal, and a selection of zines from The Mum Poem Press. Her debut collection, The Colour of Hope, was published in 2020. She loves turquoise things, Christmas lights, and cheese you can eat with a spoon.

Jen Feroze’s poem “In Our Kitchen on Christmas Eve” is published in Capsule Stories Winter 2021 Edition: Sugar and Spice. The haibun explores her family’s Christmas Eve tradition of an elaborate cheeseboard laid out by her husband, complete with fromage-related storytelling.

Capsule Stories: Tell us about this family cheeseboard tradition and why you wanted to capture it in a poem!

Jen Feroze: My husband Matt is really passionate about French cheese. In fact, he took a career break years ago and we moved to France in order for him to learn more about it. He always lights up when he has the opportunity to treat us to some really good cheese, and he knows all the stories and the science behind how it’s made and matured. Over the years, his cheeseboard musings have become a bit of a centerpiece of our family Christmas, and when I saw the call out for Sugar and Spice I knew I had to try and get it down on paper! An homage to his fromage, if you will.

Capsule Stories: This poem is a haibun—a poetic form that starts with a prose poem and is punctuated by a haiku. How did you land on the haibun form for this poem? What do you hope is emphasized or drawn out of the story by this particular form?

Jen Feroze: I wanted to gather a sense of pace and of storytelling, with the sensory images building up into a bit of a crescendo, before stripping it back and ending with the imagism in the haiku. Like a buildup of anticipation before the first bite of something you’ve been wanting to try. 

Capsule Stories: The speaker of the poem focuses on her husband and her family around her in the prose section and doesn’t mention herself until the haiku, when she says: “I am full. And yet I eat / pieces of farmhouse gold / from the palm of your hand.” What effect do you want this reveal to have on readers?

Jen Feroze: This is a poem about cheese, yes (and an excuse for me to revel in highly sensory food imagery, which is one of my favorite things to do), but it’s really a love poem to my husband, and I wanted to bring it back to that at the end. 

Capsule Stories: What are your favorite recipes to make and eat over the winter holidays? 

Jen Feroze: It’ll probably come as no surprise that cheese features heavily. This year we’re making tartiflette, a gorgeously hearty cheesy French dish of reblochon, potatoes, onions, and bacon. I also love to make sweet treats, so I am looking forward to making the traditional Yule log and attempting salted caramel ganache truffles. Yum!

Capsule Stories: How do you make time in your life to write?

Jen Feroze: Sporadically! With two small children it tends to mean finding pockets of time to splurge ideas and half-finished images/lines into the notes app on my phone, often at very anti-social hours! I find that I get a bit antsy if I’m not able to write *something* a couple of times a week at least, so I try very hard to make regular space for it. 

Capsule Stories: Tell us about your debut poetry collection, The Colour of Hope!

Jen Feroze: It was written during the first lockdown in the UK and started out as a way to cheer up a friend. I asked her to send me three things that would be guaranteed to make her happy and combined them into a poem for her. She shared it with friends, and I started to get commissions and requests, and after a while I realized that there was a book here. The briefs I received were a mix of the gorgeously specific and the beautifully universal, and the resulting collection of forty-five poems is an uplifting reading experience that speaks of our collective human experience in the face of a world in chaos. I like to think of it as a little museum of happiness. It’s available to buy on Bookshop, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and a range of other online retailers, and 20 percent of every copy sold is donated to UK mental health charity Mind.

Capsule Stories: What are you working on next?

Jen Feroze: I’m working on a pamphlet of poems about the experience of early motherhood, and specifically early motherhood during a pandemic.  

You can find Jen Feroze on Instagram at @the_colourofhope and on Twitter at @jenlareine.

Jen Feroze headshot by creative commercial headshots essex chloe lee photography
Jen Feroze | Photo by Chloe Lee Photography

Read Jen Feroze’s poem “In Our Kitchen on Christmas Eve” in Capsule Stories Winter 2021 Edition: Sugar and Spice, now available in paperback and ebook!

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