friday feast: welcoming the new year with two poems by barbara crooker

AFTER THE HOLIDAYS,
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)

*   *   *

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

DIANTHUS

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

*   *   *

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!

*   *   *

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!

 

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

59 thoughts on “friday feast: welcoming the new year with two poems by barbara crooker

  1. Thank you for these poems. Poetry has always eluded me much as I have tried to connect with poems. Barbara’s work though spoke to me today. Now I will have to run to the library and indulge in one of her books. My mother loved flowers too and that poem was like a visit with her at her best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you must read more of Barbara’s work! There are more poems about her mother in GOLD, but I’ve enjoyed all her previous books. I think you will be pleasantly surprised just how accessible her poems are.🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. *LOVE Barbara Crooker’s words! thanks for the sneak preview of her two new books…I have three already, but you can never have enough Barbara poetry…*

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  3. Happy New Year, Jama! I hope your holidays were good. I first knew of Barbara Crooker when a friend gave me a copy a Gold. Thank you for sharing some of these new books by her, Jama, so beautiful. How can we not love “with nothing to do but sit in the sun and shine?” I hope you are warm and cozy there in this latest winter visit!

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    1. Happy New Year to you, too, Linda. I’ve been keeping warm by staying indoors and reading🙂.

      GOLD resonated with me a lot since it was about losing one’s mother. But Barbara explores so many other issues too and the emotions always ring true. This keeps me coming back for more. . .

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  4. Jama, I’m simply delighted to find Barbara’s poetry here! I fell in love with her years and years ago, when her work appeared in Welcome Home magazine. I have three of her books and page through them at regular intervals. I am tickled to hear she has two new volumes out!!

    Many thanks for this beautiful post. It just made my day! xox

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    1. So happy to hear you’re a fellow Barbara fan, Amy! Like you, I’ve been returning to her books time and again for quite a few years now. Great spiritual nourishment.🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Both of these poems by Barbara Crooker are delightful, but the first really resonated with me. I love the holidays, but I agree “enough is enough” and by January I’m ready to re-enter the “real” world. I received a bookstore gift card for Christmas – I think Barbara Crooker’s poetry books might be the perfect purchase. Thanks for sharing, Jama…and Happy New Year! =)

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    1. Yes, I feel the same about the holidays too — even moreso the older I get!🙂

      I hope you do treat yourself to Barbara’s poetry — great inspiration for the new year!

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  6. Yes, Happy New Year, Jama. Reading “After the Holidays” helped me to quiet myself and reflect on what I may have been feeling after the holidays with the now frigid temps helping to still me. Where do I go from here and what OLW will spur me on? I’ve been reading other blogs and looking in terms of regenerating my self and life. I came upon “define” in this poem. I grabbed it and wrote it down, searching the thesaurus for synonyms. I’ve left my writing life but can’t let it go, so I think defining my life will lead me on. I will also find Barbara Crooker’s poetry to help me. Thanks again, Jama.

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    1. “Define” certainly has many possibilities! Sounds like you’re in the midst of some soul searching. I’ve always been one for trusting one’s instincts. The answer you are seeking is already within you. Usually my OLW is always the same: Love. Lead with love, act from a place of love. I wish you the best of luck defining your life this year. Poetry may inspire and help to clarify some things for you. Happy New Year!

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    1. Happy to hear you’ve ordered the books, Rosi. You will not be disappointed! It’s sometimes uncanny how Barbara is able to verbalize so many of my thoughts — and you will feel the same way.🙂

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  7. I was excited to learn that you had Barbara Crooker’s poems today! Count me as a fan of hers too. “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.” — ahh! Her second poem, though — I had to save it to re-read. So wonderful. Happy New Year, Jama!

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    1. Yay, glad to know you’re a big fan of her work too, Tabatha. Her words constantly surprise, delight, and move me. The possibilities of language! Definitely cause for more ahhhh’s.🙂

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  8. The imagery in these poems is so strong! I love the idea of the house settling back into itself, “a robe around its shoulders.” I feel that way, too, after New Years! The stunning dianthus photos are a welcome sight on this snowy day, and the poem itself is gorgeous. Linda is absolutely right: How can we not love “with nothing to do but sit in the sun and shine?” Thanks so much for sharing, Jama! Happy New Year to you!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the poems, Catherine. The flower photos cheered me up when I found them on our snow day recently.🙂 Happy New Year to you!

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  9. Thanks for the spring flowers, Jama and Barbara. I needed to see them (in picture and words) today! Since Barbara is a Little Patuxent Review contributor, I’ll put a link to this post on the LPR Facebok page.

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  10. You have joined my poetry writing support group for caregivers with Dianthus. This past Tuesday, a post caregiver discussed her dreams of her mother who had Alzheimer’s. I shared how I, too, still dream of my mother who died in 2002. In our dreams, we both are with our mothers who are healthy, all before Alzheimer’s and we are thinking, “Oh, she doesn’t have Alzheimer’s yet.” And we are feeling such joy in our dreams. This joy is still with us as we awaken. It’s almost as though that dementia part of our mothers’ life no longer exist. Thank you for the poem. Will share this with my support group members.

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    1. Glad to hear this poem resonated with you so strongly. Thanks for telling us about those dreams! I’ve heard others say that when they think about loved ones who have died, the memories are usually the happy ones. These days I’ve been picturing my mother when she was her usual strong, healthy self. No dreams yet, but I look forward to the joy those will someday bring.🙂

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  11. ALWAYS a treat to see Barbara Crooker’s name in one of your posts, Jama. I was struck this time by the lines Tabatha highlighted, and the whole concept (and beautiful backstory) of those lovely Sweet Williams.

    I don’t know Amy up there, but I sure did love Welcome Home magazine – maybe that’s why Barbara’s work seems so fresh yet familiar. (I even had a poem published in WH back in the day!)

    Wishing you “the fragrance of sweet remembrances and renewal” in your new year, too! xo

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    1. Yes, the lines Tabatha quoted were my favorites too. Definitely swoon-worthy.🙂

      And what nice synchronicity about Welcome Home Magazine!

      All best to you and yours in 2015, Robyn.

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  12. I look forward to the pinks that grow wild in my yard in late spring. I thought they were native wildflowers, but no, they were imported from Europe and ran wild! They are called maiden pinks, fancy name: dianthus deltoid. I’ve written a Dickinson-inspired haiku about them, but I’m waiting until the spring so I can snap a good photo to illustrate it. Thanks for sharing all the photos and “Dianthus.”

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    1. Lucky you to have those pinks right in your own yard! They must be really lovely. Can’t wait to see your Dickinson haiku and the photo. I envy people who can actually have flowers growing in their yards (we have too many deer that eat everything in sight).

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  13. Oh, how I love that moon in the first poem:

    “a comma
    dividing the sentence between
    last year’s troubles and this year’s
    hopes.”

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  14. Dianthus took my breath away,Jama – perhaps because my mother is so much on my mind these days. She loves flowers, too. Thank you for giving me a lovely moment to pause and think of her today, albeit a bit teary eyed.

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    1. Nice to know your mom is also a flower lover. I had the same reaction when I first read “Dianthus.” So beautiful, a place the poet had moved beyond grief, but poignant.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the poems.
      Yes, that’s my mug. Also have a matching teapot and salt and pepper shakers. Got them a long time ago, forgot where.🙂
      Happy New Year to you, Denis and Jamie!

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  15. So glad to see Barbara Crooker’s name, sweep over and settle in, with some pink Dianthus, too. I share that post holiday feeling — there will be evergreen needles found for months, but most signs of the tree are gone. I think I need a new year’s treat of a new volume of poems, though. Thank you!

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    1. Yes, a new book of poetry is the perfect New Year’s treat!

      I’ve put away all the other Christmas decorations, but the tree will stay up all year — a tribute to my mom. Christmas 2013 was the last time we saw her at home. We did the same when Len’s cousin died a few years ago — we last saw her alive when she visited us Christmas Eve. Obviously our tree is artificial, but it still drops quite a few needles.🙂

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  16. Barbara Crooker is new to me, but reading these two poems make me want to hunt down more of her work immediately ! I love the ordinariness of the first poem- so true! “Dianthus” captures a path I’m walking with my mom right now- such big truth! Thank you!

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    1. Yes, you should read more of her work, Carol. Her poems are so very accessible and I know you’ll enjoy them. She’s very prolific and many of her poems can be found online (there’s a list of links on her website).🙂

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  17. You so perfectly summed up why I love Barbara Crookr: “I am stunned by the lyrical beauty and emotional resonance of her work, its reassuring accessibility and seamless architecture.”

    Me, too.

    “Dianthus” is beautiful, and so poignant in relation to your own mom, Jama. {Hugs}

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  18. Thanks for these lovely poems. I do like dianthus, too, as they will grow most of the year here. I think the thing I like best about After the Holidays is the wonderful way she breaks the lines.

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  19. Love! Thanks so much for sharing Barbara’s poems. Her words are magic words. They make me feel so much.

    “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.”
    Amazing lines!

    And Dianthus is so beautiful.

    Thanks, Jama.

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  20. Thanks for sharing these wonderful poems–appropriately enough, I’m reading while walking on the treadmill (my husband built me a desk to put on said treadmill for Chanukah–we’ll see how long this new habit lasts!)
    As others have noted, that comma is splendid. And I did relate to the Dianthus poem–my mom comes back to me as her healthier younger self–that’s the gift of time.

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    1. What a lovely way to put it — the gift of time. Very reassuring to hear that, Buffy. Good luck with your new treadmill set-up. I couldn’t read that way; it would make me dizzy. I know others write on the treadmill too.

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  21. Here’s a sign that you post Barbara’s work so often: I saw the link at Tabatha’s blog and thought, “Oooh, Barbara Crooker!” I was not disappointed–both poems put their finger precisely on a point of experience and press, gently, to wake up those emotions.

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    1. I’ve never counted how many Barbara poems I’ve posted, but I think the first one was about chocolate🙂. I like that with her books, I’ll enjoy all the poems, rather than having just a few stand out (as is the case with lots of other collections).

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  22. She perfectly articulates what so many of us feel — what a gift! Thanks for sharing, Jama and welcome back! Glad you had a good holiday.

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    1. And she has the uncanny ability to express what we’ve felt all along without consciously realizing it. Thanks for the welcome back — hope you had a good holiday too!

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  23. Welcome back beautiful Jama! I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday. I have the same poetry magnetic kit – bought it from the Edgar Allan Poe house in Baltimore – I doubt if there is much deliciousness in the words there – more the dark grim frightening ones I suppose, but I’m prepared to be surprised – haven’t opened it yet.

    Love the poems that you shared here, particularly the Dianthus. Glad to know about Barbara’s poetry. Love learning new poems through the poetry friday community.🙂 Hugs!

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    1. Happy New Year, Myra!

      Has the world traveler finally returned home to Singapore?🙂

      I imagine your poetry kit would contain some darkly delicious words, maybe some of the words Poe used most often in his poetry!

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