Kneeling Orion

In her first book since Where the Deer Were, Kate Barnes probes and penetrates more deeply and more profoundly into her special world of friendships, of rural Maine, of seasons, and of lives slowly, inexorably coming to an end. This selection of her strongest work from the past decade displays a poet at the height of her power – compassionate, compelling, and possessed of an ear for words, images, and rhythms that is almost pitch perfect.

Like Frost, Barnes is a deceptively simple poet. Her narrative verse partakes of an old tradition: she tells a story. But beneath the story are life lessons, strictures taught by her parents (Elizabeth Coatsworth and Henry Beston), the harsh climate of New England, and the necessities of living a life alone, but without loneliness. What the reader comes away with is a sense of connection – with the past, with the earth, with her friends, and with the human condition superbly defined.

Kate Barnes was born on April 19, 1932, in Hingham , Mass. to parents Henry Beston and Elizabeth Coatsworth. Six weeks later she came to Maine on the train, in a basket, wreathed with flowers, to spend the summer at the Bestons’  Chimney Farm, in Nobleboro, Maine. Growing up she spent her summers in Maine, and attended the Derby School in Hingham, Mass. She graduated from the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York, and then from Scripps College, in Claremont, California. While Kate was attending Scripps College her parents sent her $30 a month for clothing and extras, which Kate instead used to rent a horse and spent every free moment riding horses and exploring the countryside. She said of that time “it was a drunkenness of such joy as I had never known…I just ate that landscape up. I couldn’t get enough.” The friendships that she made in college, in California and later in Maine continued in strength and richness throughout her life.

In 1953, Kate married Richard G. Barnes, and their life in California was full of children, horses, dogs and poetry. In 1955, at the age of 23, Kate had her first poem published in the New Yorker magazine. Her life in poetry blossomed, with poems published in many magazines and anthologies, and four books of poems published, two by the publisher David Godine. She was a well – loved reader, and teacher, and after returning to Maine in the early 1980s, she was named Maine’s first official Poet Laureate, and served from 1996 to 2000. She was also a gifted artist, a serious scholar of literature, a maker of beautiful handmade books, and a serious student of song.

Mary Azarian grew up on a small farm in Virginia, where she had horses, rabbits and chickens. After graduating from Smith College, where she studied printmaking with Leonard Baskin, she married and moved to a farm in northern Vermont. There she taught for four years in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in the state. She has been a full-time printmaker since 1969. Her other books include The Tale of John Barleycorn, The Man Who Lived Alone, and the Caldecott Medal-winning Snowflake Bentley.