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The Folger Spotlight

Poetic Pairings: Donika Kelly and a Hungarian Red Blend

Shakespeare’s Sisters: Say Her Name celebrates the poetry of Black women in America. This virtual seminar and writing workshop for adults explores poets such as June Jordan, Ai, Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove, Tracy K. Smith and others. From the Black Arts Movement to Cave Canem to recent Poet Laureates, these poets speak to the contemporary moment with many still alive and producing work.

We are pleased to bring you a special collaboration with DCanter wines, pairing a poem from the Shakespeare’s Sisters curriculum with a recommended wine each Monday of the seminar. Folger Poetry Coordinator and Shakespeare’s Sisters co-leader Teri Cross Davis provides context for the choices.

Donika Kelly is the author of The Renunciations (Graywolf 2021) and Bestiary (Graywolf 2016). Bestiary is the winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry, and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. The collection was also long listed for the National Book Award, and was a finalist for a Publishing Triangle Award and a Lambda Literary Award. A Cave Canem graduate fellow and member of the collective Poets at the End of the World, Donika has also received a Lannan Residency Fellowship, and a summer workshop fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center. Her poems have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic online, The Paris Review, and Foglifter. She currently lives in Iowa City and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa, where she teaches creative writing. (

In the Beginning
by Donika Kelly

In the beginning, there was your mouth:
soft rose, rose murmur, murmured breath, a warm
cardinal wind that drew my needle north.
Magnetic flux, the press of form to form.
In the beginning, there was your mouth—
the trailhead, the pathhead faintly opened,
the canyon, river-carved, farther south,
and ahead: the field, the direction chosen.
In the beginning, there was your mouth,
a sky full of stars, raked or raking, clockwise
or west, and in the close or mammoth
matter, my heart’s red muscle, knocked and knocked.
In the beginning, there was your mouth,
And nothing since but what the earth bears out.

Returning to the root of winemaking, returning to a loved one, the land remembers like the flesh does, how it can be made to turn this way and that and what can grow from such tender affection—be it wine or kisses. We celebrate the origins of the former with this week’s wine pairing, Gál Tibor Egri Bikavér Superior 2018.

Gál Tibor Egri Bikavér Superior 2018

From: Eger, Hungary

Description: Complex aromas of red forest berries with a touch of dried autumn leaves, this wine features fruity and spicy flavors like waxy red cherries, aromatic plum jam, green peppercorn and herbs.

Pairs with: Enjoy with any food that has a slightly smoky note, such as fajitas, grilled or roasted vegetables, or grilled meats.

What better part of the world to enjoy wine from than where winemaking began? There is evidence of winemaking as far back as 6000 B.C. in Georgia, which quickly spread to the surrounding Balkan areas, especially by the Romans. Hungary was one such area, well-known for its dessert wine and full-bodied reds. Unfortunately, vineyards were decimated in the 1880s by the phylloxera epidemic, and the industry was further crushed under Soviet Union rule in the twentieth century. During this period, winegrowers were pressured to plant high-yield varietals in place of the diverse, indigenous varieties. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the new generation of winemakers could go back to their roots, re-establishing native varieties, utilizing ancient winemaking techniques, and focusing on quality over quantity. A country with a rich, long winemaking history that is re-emerging with fresh, new voices. Enjoy this classic red blend from Eger, Hungary – You won’t be disappointed! —Beth Richman, DCanter


DCanter logoDCanter: A Wine Boutique is a wine retailer located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, specializing in sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wines from small producers around the world as well as fun, yet informative, wine education. Their selections are available in-store, online, or through a personalized wine shopping service known as Concierge by DCanter. Visit them at to learn more.

Thank you for reading along as we explored these poetic pairings between the words of Shakespeare’s Sisters and the wines of DCanter. For a full list of our upcoming programs, visit our website.