Poetry reading in Pittsfield

Edited to add: This reading has been canceled because there is a funeral in my community that afternoon.

November is Jewish Book Month. Jewish Book Month is an annual event of the Jewish Book Council dedicated to the celebration of (what else?) Jewish books. The Jewish Federation of the Berkshires is sponsoring a variety of Jewish Book Month events around the county during November.

I'm delighted to be able to let y'all know that Jewish Federation of the Berkshires has invited me to be part of the county's Jewish Book Month programming. I'll be sharing some of my poems at 1pm on Thursday, November 6 at Knesset Israel on Colt Road in Pittsfield.

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A kosher hot lunch will be provided at Knesset Israel at 12pm; the poetry reading will follow at 1pm, and all are welcome to come for one or both. If one comes only to the reading, the cost is $3 (I believe that the kosher hot lunch requires a reservation -- you can confirm that by calling Jewish Federation or Knesset Israel.)

Here's a description of the event:

Poetry of Sacred Time

Join poet and rabbi Rachel Barenblat (author of 70 faces: Torah poems and Waiting to Unfold, both published by Phoenicia Publishing, and of the forthcoming Open My Lips, coming from Ben Yehuda Press) for a poetry reading which dips into the wellsprings of Jewish sacred time. Rabbi Barenblat will share Torah poems, motherhood poems, and poems which engage with Jewish liturgy and with the unfolding of our festival year. Q-and-A and booksigning to follow.

If you're in the area, I hope you'll join us. I'll have copies of my books available for sale and am happy to inscribe them. They make great Chanukah gifts!


Visiting a shul by the sea!

I'm off this weekend to Temple Beth-El of City Island, where I will be their scholar-in-residence as they celebrate their 80th anniversary with a Shabbaton of delicious practice, teaching, and togetherness! (I posted about this a while back.)

It's going to be an action-packed weekend. Tonight: kabbalat Shabbat services with "Your Band By the Sea." Tomorrow morning: services co-led by me, Reb David, and Reb Eva, followed by a public teaching at noon on the power of blessing. Tomorrow night: havdalah and a poetry reading in a private home. Sunday morning: a class on writing in spiritual life and then a poetry reading before I turn around and head home.

If you are in or around the New York city area, I'd love to see you at any of these events which are feasible for you! Logistical details again, for those who need them:

Friday and Saturday services / teaching at Temple Beth-El, 480 City Island Avenue

Sunday sessions at Samuel Pell House, 586 City Island Ave

( writing class: $20 for non-members, bring a notebook or laptop and an open heart)

Shabbat shalom to all!


Weekend Shabbaton, poetry reading, and master class on City Island

I'm going to Temple Beth-El of City Island at the end of this month as a Scholar-In-Residence! While I'm there, I'll be participating in Shabbat services (both evening and morning), offering some teaching, reading poetry, and teaching a class. Below is some information from them (also mirrored on their website). If you're in or near New York, I hope you'll join us!


Shabbaton, Poetry Reading, & Master Class on City Island during the last weekend in May

GuitarNationally recognized rabbi, poet and blogger Rachel Barenblat, the Velveteen Rabbi, will hold a special shabbaton weekend as TBE’s Scholar in Residence, May 30 – June 1, 2014. This amazing weekend will include music-filled services, special teachings, and public readings/symposia of Rabbi Rachel’s works. Especially known for spiritual writing and re-imagining the lives of families and especially women for the 21st century, Rabbi Rachel is an accomplished author of numerous books of spiritual poetry, and has been named by Time Magazine as among the 25 top bloggers on the Internet.

Shabbat, May 30-31

Fri. May 30 7:30 pm Musical Shabbat with Your Band by the Sea

Sat. May 31 10:00 am Shabbat Morning Services

12:00 pm Public Teaching: The Power of Blessing

 

Sunday, June 1

Sun. June 1 10:30 am Master Class: Writing in Spiritual Life

12:00 pm Public Reading and Author Q&A

Friday and Saturday services / teaching at Temple Beth-El, 480 City Island Avenue

Sunday sessions at Samuel Pell House, 586 City Island Ave

( writing class: $20 for non-members, bring a notebook or laptop and an open heart)

 

70FacesSmallPraise for 70 faces (Phoenicia Publishing 2011)

Rachel Barenblat’s Torah poems open the doorway into sacred text so that we can walk in and make it our home.  She invites us to bring all of our passion, doubt, humor, humility and chutzpah as we encounter these ancient words and bring them to Life.  Through Rachel’s skillful, joyful, playful and profound poetry, the Torah opens her secrets to us and invites us into an intimate conversation with Truth. 
        —Rabbi Shefa Gold, Torah Journeys

These poems are so out there, so radical, and at the same time so    gentle and inviting. Barenblat manages to do work that has passion and truth behind it, without ranting. I love the final poem in this     collection – gliding right past heartbreak into renewal.
        —Alicia Ostriker, The Book of Seventy

 

 

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Praise for Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia 2013)

These rich poems will carry you into the great timeless miracle and mystery of unfolding littleness, nonstop maternal alertness, beauty and exhaustion and amazing, exquisite tenderness, oh yes. 
        —Naomi Shihab Nye, The Words Under the Words

The intense observation of the poet and intense observation of the mother unite in a celebration of what is new and newborn, what is intensely felt and cherished and what is lost and mourned. Barenblat’s poems are easy to enter into, and they carry both the uniqueness of her persona as poet and serious Jew and the universality of love that has made us all. The holy is in the everyday, as our best American poets have taught us, and as Barenblat teaches us in a new way. 
        —Rodger Kamenetz, The Jew in the Lotus

 


A reading in Jerusalem!

70FacesSmall WaitingToUnfold-small

I'm thoroughly delighted to be able to announce that I'll be giving a talk and poetry reading in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem next week! Here's the event description:

Thursday, March 27, 8pm: Rachel Barenblat on motherhood, poetry, and spiritual life

Join poet and rabbi Rachel Barenblat for a talk about motherhood, poetry, blogging, postpartum depression, and spiritual life. Rachel will intersperse poems from Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013) with narrative about new motherhood and postpartum depression, using these poems (written one each week during the first year of her son's life) as a springboard for a conversation about how parenthood shapes both poetry and spiritual life. Depending on the interest of those who are present, she may also talk about Torah poetry and/or about blogging; her blog Velveteen Rabbi was named one of the top 25 sites on the internet in 2008.

I'm really looking forward to sharing poems and conversation. If you are in or near Jerusalem, I hope you will join us! The event will take place at the home of Rachel Shalev, a member of Nava Tehila, the Jewish Renewal community of Jerusalem. Seating is limited, and the event is RSVP only; if you're planning to come, please contact Rachel Shalev and ensure your place.

Deep thanks to author and journalist (and friend) Ilene Prusher, who did the work to set this up for me. Her books will be available for sale at the event, as will a limited number of copies of mine.


Book events across the border!

WaitingToUnfold-smallThis morning, after I lead meditation at my synagogue, I'll pack my things and get ready to head up the Northway and across the border.

If you are in or near Montreal, I hope you'll join me for one or the other (or both!) of these two author events -- first a conversation (leavened with poetry) about parenthood and spiritual life at the Anglican Cathedral on Saturday afternoon at 1pm, and then a service at the Unitarian Church of Montreal on Sunday morning where I'll be sharing some poems and also the morning's sermon.

My wonderful publisher, Phoenicia, is based in Montreal -- hence the decision to head up there. 70FacesSmallThis was initially conceived as more of a book launch weekend last spring, but timing and scheduling and parenthood and logistics were difficult to resolve... so we postponed until autumn, after the Days of Awe were complete. Which is now!

I'm looking really forward to the trip. I've been to Montreal several times before -- as a high school student on a French class trip (a big deal, coming all the way from south Texas!), for a mini-honeymoon right after our wedding, for a gathering with far-flung blogger friends, for a poetry reading and panel discussion when 70 faces first came out.

Every time I'm fortunate enough to visit, I experience a slightly different facet of the city -- which I was initially going to call beautiful and unique, though it occurs to me that those words are so banal as to be almost meaningless; surely every city is beautiful and unique, seen through the right eyes. But Montreal really is both of those things, and I'm looking forward to dipping into it again.

See y'all on the other side!


Two author events in Montréal next month

I'm delighted to be able to announce that I'll be returning to Montréal in about three weeks (over the weekend of Canadian Thanksgiving) for a pair of author events.

WaitingToUnfold-small 70FacesSmall

The first will be on a Saturday afternoon at the Anglican church in Montréal, Christ Church Cathedral:

Montrealevent1

FAMILY SATURDAY, October 12th, 1-4pm in Fulford Hall (Eng) Join Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, author of Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013) a collection of poems which offer an honest look at the challenges and blessings of early parenthood. Discuss the relationship between parenthood and spiritual life. Childcare will be provided. Register with the Reverend Rhonda Waters as soon as possible.

And the second will be on Sunday morning, October 13th, at the Unitarian Church of Montréal. They'll be having their usual Sunday morning service, which will center that week around themes of gratitude (since it's Canadian Thanksgiving weekend) and on music (they're hosting a choral immersion weekend.) They've graciously asked me to offer the sermon, which will also touch on themes of gratitude -- and will almost certainly involve some poetry, as will the rest of the service.

Copies of both 70 faces (Phoenicia, 2011) and Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013) will be available for sale at both events.

Both events are free and open to the public -- these are not for (Episcopalian or Unitarian Universalist) parishioners only, but for anyone of any faith who's interested in the intersections of poetry, scripture, parenthood / life in the world, spiritual life, and cultivating gratitude! If you're in the area, or able to get to the area, I hope you'll join us.

Montreal


Essay and postpartum poems at Postpartum Progress


When I look back now, I can’t believe it took me so long to recognize the postpartum depression for what it was. Sure, I felt hopeless and overwhelmed and I cried a lot, but I was a new mother, sleeping in 45-minute increments; surely that was how every mother of a newborn felt? My old life was over and would never come back; I just needed to accept that, or possibly to grieve it for a while. But the grieving didn’t end, and the acceptance didn’t come.

Before our son was born, I had been a poet and rabbinic student. I struggled, once he was born, to figure out how to hold on to those identities. When he was two months old I would enroll in one single rabbinic school class. But before that, I wrote poems. Not very many of them, but I wrote them. This sounds melodramatic now, but when I was writing them I felt as though I was saving my own life....

 

PPPlogoMy thanks are due to Katherine Stone at Postpartum Progress not only for her amazing blog and resource site, but also for publishing my guest post Unfold: Poems of Postpartum Depression, excerpted above.

My guest post at Postpartum Progress includes short excerpts from some of the poems in Waiting to Unfold, my second book-length collection of poems, published this year by Phoenicia Publishing and available both from Phoenicia and from Amazon.

If you don't already have a copy, I hope you'll consider buying one -- for yourself, for a new mother in your life, or for anyone you know who has struggled with depression and might find hope in this chronicle of motherhood and charting a new path through.


Join me on Sunday in Great Barrington for poems and conversation

Join me this coming Sunday at the Book Loft bookstore in Great Barrington for a south county reading from my new collection of poems. I'm happy to answer questions and share some conversation, as well as to sign books. I hope you'll join us!

Sunday June 23, 6pm
Poetry reading and conversation / signing / Q-and-A
 The Book Loft, 332 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington
sponsored by MotherWoman and the Berkshire County Perinatal Support Coalition

Poet Rachel Barenblat (70 faces, Phoenicia 2011 and Waiting to Unfold, Phoenicia 2013) will read from  her new collection written during the first year of parenthood, with booksigning and conversation / Q-and-A (on subjects ranging from poetry and spirituality to postpartum depression and parenting) to follow.

 


Praise for Waiting to Unfold - from the Berkshire Eagle

Many thanks to Nichole Dupont at Berkshires Week for writing, and to the editors at the Berkshire Eagle for assigning, this very gracious and thoughtful article about my work! It appears in Berkshires Week today, both in print and online; I'm reprinting it here with gratitude.

 

 

Poems held her in her son's first year

By Nichole Dupont, Special to Berkshires Week

Rachel Barenblat, published poet and rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel, holds her son, Drew Zuckerman, now 3. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Barenblat)

LANESBOROUGH -- When you're a new mother, your infant upends your world. And when you're breast-feeding at 3 a.m., trying to soothe a colicky baby to sleep, the night may seem endless.

Isolation and winter don't help either, according to Rachel Barenblat of Lanesborough. Yet, through the thick fog of sleep deprivation and a tenacious case of post-partum depression, Barenblat, who is the rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams and a published poet with an MFA from the Bennington writing program, managed to write a poem a week during the first year of her son's life.

"Waiting to Unfold" (Phoenicia Publishing, 2013) is a lyrical collection of poetry that slices to the heart of parenting, capturing everything from the banality (and humor) of changing diapers to the ferocity of maternal protection to the nerve-ending jag of self-doubt.

But more importantly, Barenblat said, the book is a letter to her now three-year-old son, Drew: a chronicle of memories that would otherwise have been lost through the chaos and ritual of raising a child.

"It's a little astounding. I find myself grateful to have written these poems," Barenblat said. "I would have forgotten all this, but when I read the poems it takes me back, right to that moment in time. I recently gave a reading to a group of senior citizens, mostly women, who haven't had children in the house for 50 or 60 years, but they said the poems made them remember. There's something universal in this whole experience of mothering."

Continue reading "Praise for Waiting to Unfold - from the Berkshire Eagle" »


Sharing mother poems with a crowd

I didn't expect some 25 people to show up at the synagogue on Sunday for a celebratory reading from Waiting to Unfold. It was a beautiful sunny day; I had braced myself for the possibility that only my parents (visiting from Texas) and one or two congregants would be there! And that would have been okay. Back in the Inkberry days, we certainly hosted plenty of poetry readings with tiny crowds. But our small sanctuary felt full of people. It was a real joy to see so many familiar faces -- and a few unfamiliar ones, too.

Reading these poems aloud is still an intense and powerful experience for me. Each one clicks me immediately back into the moment of its composition, connecting me with realities and emotions to which I would otherwise have lost access.The poems are so intimate that some part of me always wonders whether they'll be too much for listeners. But so far, people seem to be moved by the poems, and to find resonance in them, even if they aren't parents themselves (though maybe especially if they are.)

At this reading, our son -- who had just woken up from a nap, hence the slightly glazed look in his eye -- sat quietly the entire time, listening. I don't know how much he understood; I suspect that much of the poetry went over his head. But it was moving to me to have my mother there, and my husband, and our son, especially given this collection's subject matter. Afterwards, when people clapped, our son joined them in applauding, noting approvingly, "We're clapping so loud!"

And then people asked wonderful questions. Were you ever shy about sharing something so personal? When did you start writing poetry? (I let my mother answer that one.) What was it like, writing a poem each week? Was writing mother poems different from writing Torah poems, and if so, how? What are you working on now? Who do you hope will read these poems, and what's that like for you? And so on. And then there were cookies (thank you Roberta!), and cheese and grapes (thank you David and Joanne!), and I signed books, and it was thoroughly lovely.

My deep thanks go to everyone who attended the North County reading, who listened so attentively, and who asked such terrific questions afterwards during the Q-and-A. Thank you for being here and for helping me celebrate this new book!

Photos by Jane Shiyah.


Waiting to Unfold costs $13.95 (US, CAN) / £9.10 / €10.66 and is available at Phoenicia Publishing and on Amazon (and Amazon UK and Amazon Europe) -- though publisher and author earn more if you buy it directly from Phoenicia. Still: buy it wherever works for you, I'm just happy that people want to read it!


Join me on Sunday for poems, Q-and-A, and conversation!

This past Monday I gave my first public reading from Waiting to Unfold, at Knesset Israel synagogue in Pittsfield after their kosher hot lunch. I read to an avid and interested group of about 25 people, and then took questions about everything from Torah scrolls to postpartum depression. Aftewards, a pair of older ladies approached my bookselling table and told me that it had been 60 years since they had parented newborns, but that hearing my poems brought it all back. Hearing that from them was a real gift for me.

Midweek I shared a few poems at a local hospital's training about postpartum depression. (And our son came with me, which added a special spice to the evening.) That was incredibly powerful for me, too: sharing some of the poems of my postpartum journey with people who will be tasked with diagnosing and caring for women who suffer from PPD, who may be able to let them know that there is hope and that they are not alone.

And on this coming Sunday afternoon, I'll be sharing poems from the collection again:

WaitingToUnfold-small

Sunday June 9, 4pm
Poetry reading and conversation / signing / Q-and-A / plus refreshments!
Congregation Beth Israel, 53 Lois Street, North Adams
cosponsored by MotherWoman and the Berkshire County Perinatal Support Coalition

Join Rabbi Rachel Barenblat (70 faces, Phoenicia, 2011) for a reading from Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013), her new collection of poems, written as weekly poems during her first year of motherhood. Rodger Kamenetz says, "The intense observation of the poet and the intense observation of the mother unite in a celebration of what is new and newborn, what is intensely felt and cherished and what is lost and mourned." Refreshments & book-signing to follow.

CBI is my shul, and I'm honored to be sharing my poems from the bimah there. If you haven't yet visited our beautiful sanctuary set like a gem beside wetland and mountains, and coming to services doesn't tempt you, come listen to some poems instead!

We'll also hear a few words from a MotherWoman representative, who will speak briefly about the work they do with new mothers across Berkshire County. Please join us!


My first poetry reading with our son by my side

By the time we find the right room, it feels as though we've taken every elevator in the hospital complex. Though once we go down the right one, and exit on floor G, I realize in a flash that I have been in this place before -- this is the floor where we took childbirth classes, an infinity ago before our son was born. "I think I've been here before," I say aloud.

"I don't think so," says our son, who is holding his pink Hello Kitty water bottle in one hand and holding my hand with the other.

"It was before you were born," I tell him.

"Ohhh," he says, meaningfully, though I'm not sure he really understands what "before you were born" means.

We're at Berkshire Medical Center to be brief special guests at a MotherWoman training for caregivers -- therapists, nurses, and so on -- who work with postpartum women. When we enter the room, it's packed. And it is the very same room where Ethan and I practiced different kinds of labor breathing.

Their time is tight and they have a lot to cover, so I'm only going to read two poems from Waiting to Unfold. Since this is a training about working with women who may have postpartum depression, I choose an early poem from the collection which was written during the worst of the depression: "Besieged." As soon as I tell them the title, a knowing hum runs around the room and someone murmurs, "that's all you really have to say." I read the poem, and I can feel them receiving it and taking it to heart.

After I finish the first poem, our son, who is sitting at a table full of therapists, says "Mommy?"

"Yes, my love?"

"Can I help you read the story?"

"You can come up here with me," I offer, and he does; he stands at the front of the room, holding my hand. I can feel the energy in the room shift. Everyone here saw me come in with a little boy, but there's something different about hearing these first-year poems with the subject of the poems standing at the podium too.

I start reading the last poem in the collection, "One Year (Mother Psalm 9)," and as I read the first few lines, I realize that I am near tears. "When the doctor brought you / through my narrow places / I was as in a dream" -- and this is the very building where the doctor did that very thing -- where I was transformed from a woman into a mother.

As I'm reading the words, time is telescoping. I'm inhabiting two spaces in time at once: his birth and those early days, and this moment, right now, standing with our tall and funny three and a half year old in front of a room of caregivers reading this poem.

And then he chimes in, over the top of the poem, "And don't forget, you have to look out for alligators!"

The whole room collapses in laughter. I manage to finish the poem, they thank us for coming, and we find our way back to the right elevator again.


Reflections on reading aloud

WaitingToUnfold-smallThere's always something surreal about reading from a published book of poems. Once these were fragments of language and image which I snatched out of my consciousness and wrote down. Once these were drafts, going through revision, shifting and changing. Once this was a manuscript. Now it is a published book, no longer susceptible to my changes. I grew it, I revised it, and then my publisher midwifed it into being. (Thanks, Beth!)  It feels a little bit like we've cut the umbilical cord; the book exists on its own now, independent of me.

I remember writing these poems, one by one. I had no notion of a manuscript, not then. I started writing one poem a week because it kept me linked with the life I had known before I became a mother, and because in writing weekly mother poems I could aim to sanctify the experience of caring for a newborn. Writing weekly mother poems, as I had for years written weekly Torah poems, allowed me to assert that this new life of around-the-clock infant care was as holy as the words inscribed on parchment. I felt sometimes that writing these poems was an act of saving my own life. (Melodramatic, sure, but it was how I felt at the time. The endocrine sytem is a fascinating thing. Everything felt exaggerated, then.)

Life now is so different. Now we have a lanky, funny three-and-a-half-year-old who has favorite songs and favorite books and favorite cartoons and favorite repetitive jokes -- so different from the infant he used to be. And now there is a book which I can hold in my hands. Now there is a written account of this journey through the wilderness toward the promised land. There's also an odd feeling of glimpsing moments which would otherwise be lost to me. When I read Waiting to Unfold now, especially the poems from the earliest months, I'm humbled by just how difficult that journey was -- and I wonder whether I would remember any of it if I didn't have these poems as a record of what transpired.

The sleep deprivation, the exhaustion, the colic: some of these are the height of ordinariness. Every parent of a newborn learns to subsist on too little sleep. Every nursing mother and every nursing infant have to learn together how a feeding works. (And so on.) And some of what we went through (the postpartum depression) was difficult in extraordinary ways. My memories of those early months are fogged and blurred. I only remember this much because I wrote it down when it was happening. Had I tried to write these poems six months or a year later, I wouldn't have been able to do it. The incremental changes of infancy are lost to me now, except inasmuch as I managed then to capture them in poetry. When I read those poems now, there's a feeling of being outside of myself -- as though I were watching a movie of my own life, from a great distance.

The trajectory of the collection goes from anticipation to lived experience, and then from sorrow to joy. I'm hoping I can convey that trajectory when I read from the collection aloud. Individual poems are like stars in a constellation. Each one gleams, but in order to see the picture the constellation depicts, one needs to be able to draw the lines between them, to perceive the shape made up by their connections. I wonder how the poems will reach people, what response they will evoke. I am grateful to be able to carry this collection into synagogues and bookstores and into people's lives, to share these words with people who might find meaning there.

 


 

The first public reading from Waiting to Unfold is today at Knesset Israel synagogue in Pittsfield following the Kosher Hot Lunch at noon; the second one will be on Sunday June 9 at 4pm at Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams.

Join me in Pittsfield tomorrow for lunch and poems!


Monday June 3, 12pm
Poetry reading and conversation / signing / Q-and-A / plus kosher lunch! $3
at the Older Adult Kosher Hot Meal Program sponsored by Jewish Federation of the Berkshires
Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield

Join Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, author of the newly-published Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, spring 2013), for a poetry reading and conversation. Rabbi Barenblat will read from Waiting to Unfold, which collects poems written during her son's first year of life, and will then participate in a conversation / Q-and-A about the poems and what they contain.

Please bring $3 to donate to Jewish Federation in thanks to them for orchestrating this event! (And of course, books will be on sale for $14.)

If you're coming for lunch, please RSVP to Knesset Israel so there are enough kosher hot meals for everyone. (All are welcome for the reading / conversation, whether or not you want to enjoy the kosher hot lunch, but if you do want a meal, let them know.)


Waiting to Unfold conversation at Ask Moxie

Waiting to Unfold is the first book in the Ask Moxie Summer Readalong this year. Magda has posted some opening reflections on the book, as well as questions to spark conversation:

I chose this book because I loved how intimate and raw her poems are. I feel like Rachel is able to capture the very specific and make it universal...

She makes the intimate epic, and the epic intimate. I started crying again reading these lines from "Night Feeding" in the second cycle:

as a hind longs for water
my soul longs for sleep

but I pace the round carpet
until I can crawl into bed

praying that I get a whole hour
before you summon me with your cries

which call in equal measure
my milk and my tears

Her use of the scriptural language connects us as mothers with the Divine, with nature, with all animals, and with all other mothers at the same time. It makes us both little and big, everything and nothing as we do what we have to do to nourish our young even when we think it's breaking us. How many of us have cried through feedings? I wonder if anyone hasn't...

I feel like this is the book I would give to someone who said to me, "No, TRY to tell me what motherhood is like," because even though Rachel has had some experiences not all of us have had, the way she captures the emotion of those experiences is the translation of what it's like in that first year of being someone new that you didn't know you would be.

Her post is here: Discussion: Waiting to Unfold by Rachel Barenblat. If you've read the collection and want to chime in with answers to any of her questions, or with thoughts and reflections about how the book resonated (or didn't!) for you, please do.

I'm honored and delighted that Magda chose my book to kick off the Summer Readalong (and I'm looking forward to reading the other books she's chosen and to participating in those conversations -- though I will largely recuse myself from this one unless anyone has a specific question they want to ask me; I tend to think that book discussions are for the readers, not for the author.)

Thank you, Magda! Thank you for reading, Ask Moxie readers!

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Waiting to Unfold costs $13.95 (US, CAN) / £9.10 / €10.66 and is available at Phoenicia Publishing and on Amazon (and Amazon UK and Amazon Europe) -- though publisher and author earn more if you buy it directly from Phoenicia. Still: buy it wherever works for you, I'm just happy that people want to read it!


Waiting to Unfold events in the Berkshires this June

Readers of the North Adams Transcript know that I have a new book out and that readings are planned around the county next month -- thanks, Transcript, for Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Rachel Barenblat Publishes Second Book of Poetry!

I'll be sharing poems from Waiting to Unfold across the Berkshires this June. I've got one reading in Pittsfield (central county); once in North Adams (north county); and once in Great Barrington (south county.)


Monday June 3, 12pm
Poetry reading and conversation / signing / Q-and-A / plus kosher lunch!
at the Older Adult Kosher Hot Meal Program sponsored by Jewish Federation of the Berkshires
Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield

Join Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, author of the newly-published Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, spring 2013), for a poetry reading and conversation. Rabbi Barenblat will read from Waiting to Unfold, which collects poems written during her son's first year of life, and will then participate in a conversation / Q-and-A about the poems and what they contain.

Please RSVP to Knesset Israel so there are enough kosher hot meals for everyone. (All are welcome for the reading / conversation, whether or not you want to enjoy the kosher hot lunch, but if you do want a meal, let them know.)

 

Sunday June 9, 4pm
Poetry reading and conversation / signing / Q-and-A / plus refreshments!
Congregation Beth Israel, 53 Lois Street, North Adams
cosponsored by MotherWoman and the Berkshire County Perinatal Support Coalition

Join Rabbi Rachel Barenblat (70 faces, Phoenicia, 2011) for a reading from Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013), her new collection of poems, written as weekly poems during her first year of motherhood. Rodger Kamenetz says, "The intense observation of the poet and the intense observation of the mother unite in a celebration of what is new and newborn, what is intensely felt and cherished and what is lost and mourned." Refreshments & book-signing to follow.

CBI is my shul, and I'm honored to be sharing my poems from the bimah there. If you haven't yet visited our beautiful sanctuary set like a gem beside wetland and mountains, and coming to services doesn't tempt you, come listen to some poems instead!

 

Sunday June 23, 6pm
Poetry reading and conversation / signing / Q-and-A
 The Book Loft, 332 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington
sponsored by MotherWoman and the Berkshire County Perinatal Support Coalition

Poet Rachel Barenblat (70 faces, Phoenicia 2011 and Waiting to Unfold, Phoenicia 2013) will read from  her new collection written during the first year of parenthood, with booksigning and conversation / Q-and-A (on subjects ranging from poetry and spirituality to postpartum depression and parenting) to follow.

 

Local/regional readers, I hope you'll join me for one or more of these events. Questions / comments welcome...


Motherhood, the bitter & the sweet, in Zeek

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Just in time for Mother's Day (in the US, anyway), I have a new essay out in Zeek. The essay tells the story of what becoming a mother was like for me. Here's where it begins:

My memories of the earliest months of parenthood are blurred by that perfect storm of surging hormones and sleep deprivation. In retrospect, I can’t imagine how we survived sleeping in 45-minute increments, much less learning how to care for a newborn while doing so. Even more disorienting: I wasn’t sure who I was, now that I’d had to set aside my identities as student, writer, scholar. In that one long day of labor, it seemed, I lost access to almost everything that had previously defined my existence. The exceptions were those stalwart souls who made the effort to stay actively in our lives despite the colicky infant — and, however faintly, poetry.

WaitingToUnfold-smallAs the essay continues, I talk about postpartum depression and how dubious I was that anything would ever get better -- and about the miraculous fact that, once I got the help I needed, things did change. They didn't necessarily get easy, but they did change, and I am forever grateful.

Over the course of the essay, prose is interspersed with excerpts from several poems from Waiting to Unfold. I think the essay contextualizes the poems in a certain way. Reading the collection takes you on a journey through my experiences of that first year. Reading this essay offers you that in microcosm, along with some of my thoughts about that year and about motherhood now that I've been doing this for three and a half years.

Here's another little taste of what the essay says:

There are times when parenting is an unalloyed joy, and at those times it’s easy to feel connected: with my own mother and grandmother, with all the mothers I know, with all the mothers who have gone before me and who will come after me. I feel cradled in an endless chain of blessing.

And there are also times when parenting is hard. Miserable. Exhausting. Overwhelming. For those of us who have to wrangle postpartum depression, those times may wildly outweigh the sweet ones, for a while. I wish I could find every mother who feels the way I felt in those early months, and say to her: it’s going to be okay. You are not alone. It won’t always be like this.

Beyond that: feeling this way doesn’t disqualify you from motherhood. There shouldn’t be shame in not savoring every instant of exalted motherhood. And feeling that anhedonia, that inability to savor — whether it’s fleeting or recurring — does not exclude one from the community of mothers, the chain of connection as far as the human imagination can see.

Read the whole thing here: The Bitter & the Sweet: Reflections on Motherhood. My gratitude is due to Erica Brody, the (new) editor at Zeek, for soliciting this essay and giving it a home.

 

 


Praise for Waiting to Unfold - from Kristen of Motherese

Despite major life-happenings -- a cross-country move in just a few weeks! -- Kristen of the fabulous blog Motherese has taken a few moments to say kind things about Waiting to Unfold. She writes:

Rachel’s collection records her first year of new motherhood. Through her beautiful images, Rachel perfectly captures the anticipation, helplessness, and humor of those early months. Reading her work, it occurs to me that poetry is the perfect medium for describing infancy – that of a child and that of a parent. As Rachel demonstrates so capably through crystalline details that capture the “punctuation mark” of a sleeping child “on the blank page of [his] crib” or his “sly and sideways” glance of defiance, poetry’s precision and concision slice to the core of these unretrievable moments. And although it’s ostensibly a collection about blossoming into motherhood, Waiting to Unfold feels full of metaphors for the journey I am about to take with my family: learning how to walk, as it were, in a new town, into a brave new world.

You can read the whole post (and wish her all the best in the upcoming move) here: Homeward Bound. Thanks for the kind words, Kristen! I hope your move brings you every blessing.

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Waiting to Unfold costs $13.95 (US, CAN) / £9.10 / €10.66 and is available at Phoenicia Publishing and on Amazon (and Amazon UK and Amazon Europe) -- though publisher and author earn more if you buy it directly from Phoenicia. Still: buy it wherever works for you.


Praise for Waiting to Unfold - from Kristin Berkey-Abbott

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Poet Kristin Berkey-Abbott has published an incredibly gracious and glowing review of Waiting to Unfold at her blog. Here's a taste:

I'm not a mother, but I know a lot of mothers, and I imagine that this book reminds them of both the joys and the terrors of that first year of motherhood. But even if we haven't experienced those emotions first hand, the book can speak to us too.

I enjoyed it immensely, probably because it was honest in its exploration of that first year. Too many chronicles of the first year seem determined to refuse to admit that it's anything but glorious. Barenblat's poems are rooted in the every day, which includes the not-so-glorious, like a child who doesn't want to sleep, a child who explores the world in a terrifying, head-on, exhilarating way...

It's a collection that makes me return to my own life with a sense of wonder. After all, we've all been children, and most of us have been around children. I love poems like "Taste," poems that remind us of all the delights in store as we move from thin gruel to other, richer treats. The book is full of reminders of how much each day has to offer, if we can just slow down to savor them.

Read the whole review: A Great Book for Mother's Day -- or Any Day. Thank you, Kristin! I'm delighted that you enjoyed the collection so much (and that you caught the Psalms references!)

 

Waiting to Unfold costs $13.95 (US, CAN) / £9.10 / €10.66 and is available at Phoenicia Publishing and on Amazon (and Amazon UK and Amazon Europe) -- though publisher and author earn more if you buy it directly from Phoenicia. Still: buy it wherever works for you.


A poem from Waiting to Unfold reprinted at Hugo Schwyzer's blog

Deep thanks to Hugo Schwyzer for sharing one of the poems from my new collection, Waiting to Unfold, on his blog. Hugo writes:

I don’t often put up poetry any more, but I want to make an exception this week to promote the new book from my friend Rachel Barenblat (also known as the Velveteen Rabbi.) I had a few of her lovely offerings up on my old Thursday Short Poem series, and I’m excited to announce her new poetry collection Waiting to Unfold. Rachel wrote one poem a week during the first year of her son’s life — and she beautifully captures the wonder, the fear, the exhaustion, and the surges of stupendous love of new parenthood. “Waiting to Unfold” would make a most excellent Mother’s Day Gift.

And then he shares one of the poems from late in the collection -- which hasn't been excerpted or shared anywhere else, to my knowledge. Here's his post: Tuesday Short Poem: Barenblat’s “And Then There Are Days”. Thanks, Hugo!

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Waiting to Unfold costs $13.95 (US, CAN) / £9.10 / €10.66 and is available at Phoenicia Publishing and on Amazon (and Amazon UK and Amazon Europe) -- though publisher and author earn more if you buy it directly from Phoenicia. Still: buy it wherever works for you.