Posts Tagged ‘barbara crooker’

by Barbara Crooker

the house settles back into itself,
wrapped up in silence, a robe
around its shoulders. Nothing
is roasting in the oven or cooling
on the countertops. No presents
are waiting to be wrapped, no cards
fill the mouth of the mailbox.
All is calm, all is bright, sunlight
glinting off snow. No eggnog, no yule
log, no letters to be licked
and stamped. No more butter
cookies, no more fudge, just miles
to go on the treadmill, another round
plate added to the weight machine.
All our good intentions pave the road.
We stride out into the new year,
resolute to become firm, to define
our muscles, to tighten our borders.
The thin tinsel of the new moon
hangs in the dark sky, a comma
dividing the sentence between
last year’s troubles and this year’s
hopes. The calendar ruffles her pages,
a deck of shiny cards, deals out
a fresh new hand.

~ from Small Rain (Purple Flag Press, 2014)

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Happy New Year!

It’s nice to be back after a relaxing holiday break, and I can’t think of a better way to welcome 2015 than with two lovely poems by the inimitable Barbara Crooker.

As a longtime fan, I’ve shared more of her poems here than of those by any other poet. And with good reason: time and again, I am stunned by the lyrical beauty and emotional resonance of her work, its reassuring accessibility and seamless architecture.

A new Barbara book is always cause for celebration, so imagine my delight when I learned she has not one, but TWO new books out — Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems (Future Cycle Press, 2015) and Small Rain (Purple Flag Press, 2014), which  includes today’s poems.

The 50+ poems in Small Rain explore the cycle of the seasons: Corvid (Winter), Passerine (Spring), Tangerine (Summer), and Amaryllis (Fall). Each beautifully crafted gem brims with Barbara’s keen observations of the natural world. Intimate glimpses of bird, flower, tree and sky elucidate the heartening aspects of wonder and reverence in the presence of loss, regret, and aging. I especially appreciate the gentle reminders to stop, look, and love our world despite what we are doing to it, and to strengthen our resolve to embrace joy.

I thought of my own mother when I read “Dianthus.” She showed me my first Sweet Williams, and I’ve liked them every since. Enjoy today’s poignant bouquet. May the fragrance of sweet remembrances and renewal grace your days this new year.

Pink Dianthus by AnnA Eckstein


My mother comes back as a dianthus,
only this time, she’s happy, smelling like cloves,
fringed and candy-striped with a ring of deep rose
that bleeds into the outer petals. She dances
in the wind without her walker, nods pinkly
to the bluebells. She breathes easily, untethered
to oxygen’s snaking vines. Lacking bones,
there’s nothing left to crumble; she’s supple,
stem and leaf. No meals to plan, shop for, prepare;
everything she needs is at her feet, more rich and moist
than a chocolate cake. How much simpler
it would have been to be a flower in the first place,
with nothing to do but sit in the sun and shine.

~first published in Louisiana Literature


via bhg

Dianthus Plumarius via Annie’s

Dianthus “Chiba Cherry Picotee”

Dianthus “Sugar Plum” via Garden Drum

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Barbara on “Dianthus”:

Someone (Mom was a little foggy towards the end) brought her a pot of Sweet Williams when she was in the nursing home (it was probably one of her hospice visitors), and she wanted me to take them home and enjoy them. With some trepidation, I planted them outside, and the fact that they’ve come back every summer for the past six years makes me feel (irrationally) like this is keeping her alive, which, of course, she is, in my heart.

About the first poem:

‘After the Holidays’ was written some years ago, but I think I feel the same way every New Year — I love the holidays, but by January first, enough is enough, and I also love getting back to clean living and a healthier lifestyle, plus I love putting my house back in order. It’s all good.

♥ Thank you, Barbara, for granting me permission to post your poems. I’m looking forward to reading and sharing something from Selected Poems too!

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poetryfriday180The always warm and welcoming Tabatha Yeatts is hosting the Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. Check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week and have a good weekend!



Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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(click for Homemade Cotton Candy recipe via Cooking Books)

Do you remember the last Barbara Crooker poem I shared, where her ailing mother refused to eat her food, but demanded marshmallow Peeps?

This craving for sweets seems to be common among the elderly. A good friend of ours with an incurable lung disease would always pick at her dinner, but had no trouble at all polishing off a big piece of coconut pie. I could always make her smile just by saying,”crème brûleé.”

When I saw my mother in Hawai’i last month, I noted her diminished appetite and drastic weight loss. She did enjoy my Christmas cookies, though, along with chocolate truffles, bread pudding, cranberry muffins, apple and lemon meringue pie, Chantilly cake. No coaxing needed when it came to dessert.


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“The house light turns everything golden, and even though we know what’s coming, the next act, we start to believe we can stay here forever in the amber spotlight, that night’s black velvet curtain will never fall.” (“Vaudeville” by Barbara Crooker)

Barbara Crooker’s latest poetry book, Gold (Cascade Books, 2013) has been a godsend these last few months.

goldcoverAs I try to navigate the failing health of my parents and the dread of impending loss, Barbara’s poems have come to the rescue again and again — offering comfort, hope, and affirmation. Gold focuses on the life-altering experience of losing one’s mother; Barbara recounts her mother’s long illness, her death, and the aftermath of coping with grief.

These deeply felt, finely wrought lyric-narrative poems are sad but never maudlin or depressing, personal yet universal, with stirring emotional truths that pierce the heart.

I love how she shines an incandescent light on the fragility and strength of the mother-daughter relationship, inviting us into those tender moments of grace where she is child-turned-caregiver, the child yet asking, “How can she be gone?”

Nana's 90 023crop

Barbara with her mother Isabelle on her 90th birthday, two months before she passed away.

If you’re already a fan of Barbara’s work, you’ll bask once again in her radiant images and the beautiful cadences of every line. Autumn sets the stage for this eloquent elegiac rumination echoing Frost’s, “Nothing gold can stay.”

The collection also includes poems about Ireland, aging and the body, the difficulties and joys of love in long-term marriages, the loss of friends, and several ekphrastic poems on paintings by Gorky, Manet, Matisse, O’Keeffe and others.


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1. Because so many of you loved my Indie Artist Spotlight featuring Stéphanie Kilgast of PetitPlat, I know you’ll be excited to hear she just published her first miniature food tutorial book! Now you can follow her step-by-step instructions in English and French (with lots of photos) for making your own polymer clay cakes and breads, etc.

petit plat book

petit plat spread

Repas de Fête/Party Food contains 21 projects centered around the holidays, and is suitable for beginners as well as advanced clayers. Copies are available directly from Stéphanie via her website, and last I heard, they’re selling like hotcakes. Order your copy now!

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2. Attention Hungry Writers! Have you heard about the Eat This Poem Poetry Contest?

poetry contest 2

The lovely Nicole is accepting submissions (1-3 pages of poems) now through August 15th. All poems must contain a food reference of some kind (previously published poems okay). The winning poet’s poem will be featured at Eat This Poem with a recipe inspired by the work, and he/she will also receive a copy of The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink (LOVE this anthology) and a one-year subscription to Poets & Writers Magazine. Click here for all the details.

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“All it takes is one bloom of hope to make a spiritual garden.” ~ Terri Guillemets

maybe3 (2)500


Please help yourself to a cup of tea and a cookie or two or three. :)

We have a very special treat today. Knowing how much you love her work, I asked Barbara Crooker if she’d share a poem especially appropriate for the holiday season. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa, it’s good to remember that no matter what our personal challenges may be, we’re all part of the same human family and nothing matters more than fostering Peace, Joy and Love whenever and wherever we can. Enjoy her poem and all the other poems being shared in our friendly circle this week, and may a good measure of Hope always light your way.

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I can’t exactly explain the connection, but somehow, I equate the amaryllis with hope. I’d sent one to a friend with breast cancer as a “no special reason” gift, and she reported to me how hopeful it made her feel, something green like that in the middle of winter. She died, and I bought one (the bulb, in a kit), for myself the following Christmas, and it became hopeful for me as well, the green blade rising (that references a hymn) when everything outside was dead, cold, white . . . I’ve given a number of these as gifts for these sorts of reasons, and everyone seems to have a similar response.

"White Amaryllis" by Kay Smith

“White Amaryllis” by Kay Smith


The amaryllis bulb, dumb as dirt,
inert, how can anything spring
from this clod, this stone,
the pit of some subtropical,
atypical, likely inedible fruit?
But it does: out of the dark
earth, two shoots, green
flames in December,
despite the short days,
the Long Night Moon
flooding the hard ground.
Nothing outside grows;
even small rodents
are burrowed in
the silent nights.

Then, one morning—
a single stalk,
then a bud
that swells, bells
full sail, full-bellied,
the skin grows thin,
tighter, until it splits:
heralds the night
will not be endless,
that dawn will blossom,
pearly and radiant,
and two white
trumpets unfold, sing
their sweet song,
their Hallelujah chorus,
sing carols in the thin cold air,
and our mouths say O and O and O.

~ first published in Confluence, Copyright © 2001, Barbara Crooker. All rights reserved.


"Still Life with Amaryllis, Evening" by James Aponovich (2012)/Clark Gallery

“Still Life with Amaryllis, Evening” by James Aponovich (2012)/Clark Gallery

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Now, please leave your poetry links with Mr. Linky, and don’t forget to add the title of your poem or book in parentheses after your name. I will update this post with your info throughout the day.

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1. Iza Trapani (Pet Names)

2. Jeff @ NC Teacher Stuff (Waterloo Sunset)

3. Laura Purdie Salas (Cherries in the Sun)

4. Laura Purdie Salas (15 Words or Less)

5. Diane Mayr (Spark)

6. Kurious Kitty (A Robert Frost Christmas Card)

7. KK’s Kwotes (Robert Frost)

8. Matt Forrest Esenwine (Not So Easy)

9. Steve Petersen (This Happens)

10. Linda Baie (Robert Louis Stevenson)

11. Robyn Hood Black (A Christmas Carol’s 170th Birthday)

12. Violet Nesdoly (Ben’s Quilt)

13. Charles Ghigna (The Snooze Cruise, Picking Out a Christmas Tree)

14. Vikram Madan (An original poem inspired by Renee LaTulippe’s ‘Bitter Snits’)

15. April Halprin Wayland/Teaching Authors (Winter Solstice: Girl Talking to the Sun)

16. Matt Goodfellow (Jean Genies)

17. Matt Goodfellow (ADVENTure)

18. Matt Goodfellow (Miss Bouquet’s End of Year  Class Comments)

19. Greg Pincus (Visit from Ken Nesbitt)

20. Laura Shovan (new postcard poem, The Mosquito)

21. Poem Farm (Look Up)

22. Tabatha (Walt Whitman)

23. Myra @ Gathering Books (Self Knowledge by Kahlil Gibran)

24. Janet (Bright Field)

25. Mary Lee (Ending ‘Self Esteem Week’)

25. Tara @ A Teaching Life (Visiting The Poem Farm: Indian Summer)

26. Donna (Deck the Hulls)

27. Liz Steinglass (Spark 18: Red Dress)

28. Heidi Mordhorst (Spark 18: We Be)

29. Margaret (Classroom poems inspired by Dickinson’s ‘There’s a Certain Slant of Light’)

30. Shelf-employed (original STEM haiku)

31. Doraine Bennett (The Snowflake)

32. Bridget Magee (Off to the Library)

33. Jone (Draw by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater)

34. Little Willow (Starlings in Winter by Mary Oliver)

35. Sylvia Vardell/Poetry Friday Anthology (Christmas Is by George Ella Lyon)

36. Sylvia Vardell/Poetry for Children (Bib of Christmas Poetry)

37. Jeannine Atkins (National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry)

38. JoAnn Early Macken (Meteor Shower)

39. Janet Squires (The World’s Greatest Poems by J. Patrick Lewis)

40. Lorie Ann Grover (Directed)

41. Joy Acey (Christmas Star)

42. Ruth (This Peace)

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♥ For more about Barbara Crooker’s work, please visit her Official Website.

♥ Other Barbara poems at Alphabet Soup:

This will be my last Poetry Friday post for 2012. Thanks for joining us today and for visiting this past year. I appreciate all your poetry love and look forward to sharing more tasty poems in 2013. Have a joyful, supremely delicious holiday!!

Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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