I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Barbara long enough, although I’d been hearing about her for years as a pillar of the Corvallis community. She was a patient at my father’s optometry clinic, and he would often come home and ask me if I knew her. “That’s the sharpest woman I’ve ever met,” was the running phrase I came to associate with Barbara.
I came to CALYX in 2013, long after the original founders had moved on, pursued other work, or retired. As a third-wave feminist, I was hungry to learn more about the incredible tenacity, nerve, and creative force required to make CALYX not only a reality but a lasting presence in the literary world.
Barbara was my window into that history. Although she was already ill, she responded to my inquiries for information with both depthless grace and keen insight. For our Summer/Fall 2016 issue, Vol. 29:2, she wrote a captivating essay on her own journey as a poet and the struggles that CALYX faced in its early years (including running production out of her own home and receiving condescending dismissals from major bookstores). I was also introduced to her stunning collection of poetry from the last forty years.
Barbara’s poetry made me realize why CALYX started as a “Pacific Northwest” journal. The northwest—with its brilliant greens and its heavy, dismal greys—saturates her work. Meaning is found (or simply pursued) in nature, which itself is tangled up in memory and spirituality. From the moment I read lines like “This emptiness we mend and mend / is wind that blows / between the legs of the stars” and “God / like a fat white cloud / waddling in and out,” I was hooked (“Huérfano”). I knew immediately that this was work that had helped establish CALYX’s mission and direction, and that it would be an ideal way for us to restart publishing books.
A collection a Barbara’s work, Harvest, will be released this fall from CALYX Books. It is one of the great disappointments of my career that Barbara will not get to see it in print. However, her eagle eye and exacting sense of meter and tone carried us through the initial stages of pagination and copyediting, and the final product will be better for it.
My father was absolutely right about her.
I didn’t get to spend much time with Barbara in person. It was my tremendous pleasure, instead, to get to know her through her incredible work. As we put together Harvest, I hope that many, many readers will be able to share that pleasure as well.-
– Brenna Crotty, Senior Editor