This Is the Lightness
by Rachel Barton
The poems in This Is the Lightness are fired with imagination and the fragility of the human experience. Rachel Barton has created a collection of poetry that takes the reader on a journey through the natural world; explores the concept of identity and belonging; honors our sacred connections with family and friends through aging, death, and loss; and tackles the present-day with all its perils and possibilities.
About the Author
Rachel Barton grew up in the woods of northern Indiana which has greatly influenced her poetry and provided her a sense of connection to the planet. She comes from a large family which has informed her sense of community. She was able to study literature and creative writing as an undergraduate (WVU), the visual arts as a graduate student (WVU and The VAC in Anchorage), and, much later, teaching for a master’s degree (WOU). She entered the Oregon Writing Project in 2009 and co-facilitated the OWP’s poetry intensive the following summer. She used this model of “writing within a community of writers” in the classroom, the community college, at regional conferences, and in private classes. Currently, she edits her own Willawaw Journal, an online journal for poetry and art. She also serves as associate editor for Calyx and Cloudbank magazines.
Barton’s poetry has been published in the Main Street Rag, Whale Road Review, Moon City Review, VoiceCatcher, Mom Egg Review, CIRQUE, Oregon English Journal, and in many other journals. She has published short stories in BeZine, Blue Cubicle Press, Kindred Journal, and Clackamas Literary Review.
Early Praise for This Is the Lightness:
The poems in Rachel Barton’s new book, This Is the Lightness, are crafted with the skill and confidence of a poet, teacher, and editor, all hats Rachel wears well. Her poems move easily from dreams to landscapes as diverse as Alaska and Patagonia. She writes with vibrant images and metaphors: remnants of ice fog sparkle like glitter/ frost crisps grass and thistle. (“Under the Weather”), and remember February 21 when the sun set/ like a dragon on fire (“Knik Arms to Potters Marsh”). She is equally comfortable in the world of Spirits as in the poems, “Bear Woman Takes Me Back” and “Anita Embraces Her Animal Totem.” There is an impressive range of emotions in Rachel’s poetry. In her poem, “Slaphappy,” she writes who knows what amount of joy a person tamps down over a lifetime and when it might decide to resurface, then confronts grief in her beautiful elegy, “The Morning After You Pass” for the poet, Peter Sears: somber dresses me/ slowness takes my feet/ together we move as if through Jell-O/ while I listen for the sounds/ of a life without you in it. These are poems that offer a world of surprises and beauty with the gift of memorable language.
—Doug Stone, author, Sitting in Powell’s Watching Burnside Dissolve in Rain
If poems had skin, I’d say Rachel Barton’s were comfortable in theirs. This Is the Lightness welcomes the reader into its poem-world through intriguing and often surprising narrative, lush natural imagery, close attention to sound and flow, quirky humor—and most strikingly, a tonal tendency that’s simultaneously serious and light-hearted. Sadness, pain, acute awareness, even trauma and its lasting ramifications do not lead to cynicism or despair for Barton. Always clear-eyed, she remains hospitable. This seems to me a daring stance for a contemporary poet. It’s at least unusual. As a reader I appreciate feeling essential to the full existence of this work in the way that an audience completes a play. Reading helps these poems happen. The last section, “The Sky is Falling”, expresses a sense of freedom and delight that leaves me hungry for Barton’s next book.
—Marjorie Power, author of Sufficient Emptiness
This Is the Lightness is a collection fascinated by interconnectedness—interspecies communication, the edges of wilderness and society, and the everyday intimacies of married life and friendship. It asks us to consider our roles within the ecosystems we inhabit. How do we care for others and ourselves? How do we make space for transformation and new growth as we age? The speaker in these poems is intensely curious about the natural world, drawing parallels between her human experiences and those of the plants and animals around her, and her attention to detail is disarming. She travels far, but always returns home, only to find something wild within herself.
—Karah Kemmerly, co-founder of Conjunction Press