by Barbara A. Meier
Barbara Meier may have been born in Oregon, but she grew up in Kansas, and can’t seem to get the prairie out of her system. This collection of poems is an homage her family homestead near Sylvan Grove, Kansas, and the magical times she enjoyed growing up on a farm, enjoying the kinship of cousins and grandparents.
About the Author
Barbara A Meier traded an ocean of wheat for the Pacific Northwest in 1979. She married, had babies, and pretty much gave up on her dreams of acting and writing. Thirty-three years later, she found herself alone, staring at the Pacific Ocean, and writing poems again. She still wants to try and get back on stage.
Recently she retired from teaching kindergarten and moved to Colorado to spend time with her mom. She was just in time for the COVID-19 quarantine.
She has two chapbooks published Wildfire LAL 6 (Ghost City Press, Summer 2019) and Getting Through Gold Beach (Writing Knights Press, November 2019). She has been published in The Poeming Pigeon, TD; LR Catching Fire Anthology and The Fourth River.
Early Praise for Sylvan Grove:
When I visited Kansas to share the poetry of my father, someone told me “Kansas is a state unaccustomed to literary affection; but your father loved who we are.” In that tradition of prairie patriotism, Sylvan Grove leaves no doubt this place can be loved with honest lyric skill. The poems in this book return to iconic moments of perception in a landscape where miracles yield their bounty to the steady gaze. A guide to weather describes certain effects of light as not rare, but rarely seen, and this book brings to light myriad Edenic pleasures of Kansas ground. In the work of mending, turning sod, tornado watch, windmill, firefly, wheat turning green to gold, and other magic moments, Meier performs alchemy, turning the ordinary unseen to resonant glimpses that remain.
—Kim Stafford, author
Early Morning: Remembering My Father: William Stafford
Barbara Meier spent her early childhood in a small Kansas town auspiciously named Sylvan Grove because its twin groves were a landmark in an otherwise almost treeless landscape. In twenty-six imagery-rich poems she invites us to attend her reunion with this place. We hear a calf bawling, the vanes of windmills clacking, cicadas. We feel the dangers of living on a farm: tornado supercells, chemicals, and the clashing of the combine’s gears and blades when riding without a seat belt beside her father. Meier offers us the creatures of prairie from boxelder bugs to horny toads to the dying Ford pick-ups against a backdrop of her family’s life. She includes stories from a family graveyard that a woman dare not forget if she is to know her place in this contemporary world of shifting horizons. I admire the juxtapositions in these poems of place—the limestone fenceposts of the north-central Kansas landscape, for example—with the sensitive and beautifully lyric spiritual and emotional connection to family, wheat fields, and the history buried in the soil both in the graveyard and in the fields where it was possible to find a sword from Custer’s cavalry. William Stafford, one of Kansas’ transplants to Oregon like Meier, became one of Oregon’s finest poets. This Sylvan Grove work would be a collection he would have been drawn to— as was I.
—Tricia Knoll, author of How I Learned to Be White
Sylvan Grove features a pleasantly surprising use of language, a delightful linguistic play in these poems, woven into an articulate and holistic world view. For the children in these poems, the “Garden of Eden” is a pasture in which they are sentinels of silage… Prairie angels with sunflower swords. But this is Eden before the Fall, and the farmer who owns these fields is dying among the many dangers and options for death among farm machinery, crops poisoned by unrecognized chemicals, and tornados spawning little devils on the horizon… In these pages, family lore on the prairie tells of Wild Uncle Bill’s Sword, the rag rugs knotted by the grandmother’s blind hands, and the brittle failure of mating rituals of Eastern boxelder bugs. There are echoes of William Stafford here, another poet whose myth-making began in Kansas and found its way to the Pacific Northwest. A quietly vivid debut.
—Carolyne Wright, author
This Dream the World: New & Selected Poems
Readers of Barbara A. Meier’s remarkable chapbook, Sylvan Grove, will quickly identify with its central theme: growing up in a precise geographical region, leaving, and then returning after a long absence.
With a keen eye and ear for lyrical imagery, Meier tells childhood stories about living on the Kansas plains where We were sentinels of silage…/ Prairie angels with sunflower swords, keeping out all that is bad…/ The Garden of Eden, before the fall (“The Garden of Eden”). These stories rest in corrugated boxes,/ stacked like hay bales in the back/of a dusty blue Ford pickup,/ Paradoxes wrapped in twine and baling wire (“Old Hi-Way 18”).
When the poet returns home for the first time in forty years, the central paradox of this collection becomes clear: many things have changed except one: I left alone./ I remain alone. (“Reunion, 1979-2019”). This intimate—yet universal—truth must give us pause.
Meier knows what every good writer knows: a journey is not complete until its story is told. Readers will be grateful that she shares her journey and its stories in such engaging, vivid poetry. This is a collection not to be missed.
—Carolyn Martin, poetry editor,
Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation
Gorgeous and evocative, Meier’s work is beautifully reminiscent without being sentimental. The poems in Sylvan Grove are resplendent with the countryside details of North Central Kansas, lines full of grasshoppers and barbwire, chest-high wheat and dogs leaping through the fields. I’ve been carrying these poems in my mind as I walk through my summer days, grateful for their imagery and precision. As you move through your day, these poems will stay with you.
—Peter Brown Hoffmeister, author of Too Shattered for Mending
Barbara A. Meier’s latest collection of poetry, Sylvan Grove, is not unlike any of her previous collections. There is a familiarity to her words and her passion for what she translates from eye to pen. It is both tactile and sensual. It is both accessible and intangible. And as much as that is comforting it is also deceiving. Because what lies beneath her words is a world of constant discovery and self-examination.
—Douglas Scott Delaney, author
Tower Dog: Life Inside the Deadliest Job in America
and The Last Ten Miles of Avery J. Coping