Book Review of the Week: Estuary

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Poetry is one of the rare gifts that a writer can share with us - a glimpse into a different world. One of my very favorite poets is Barbary Chaapel, our Sailing Editor here at Wandering Educators. I am very happy to be able to share her newest book, Estuary. It is full of beautiful, touching, sense-of-place poems. We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Barbary. Here's what she had to say...


WE:  Please tell us about your book, Estuary.

BC: In Estuary you will find my intentionally transparent world. Without guile I share my journey with these fifty poems from the small mountain stream to the mouth of the sea: estuary, the end or beginning. The thing is, I don't want ever to look back at this work and think to myself, I could have been more honest. I want to triumph over the quiet withholding of a lifetime.  And I’m hoping you will recognize my words.


The tide at crest carries me
To the hard land of my ancestors,
Mountain glen, green onion meadow.

Ebb tide pulls me to open seastead,
Washes from me one poem at a time.

Swirled water teems with life
When the world tilts... falling-off words
Know laughter, salt tears.

There is no way to write this gently:
There may be a plant called
Dead man fingers in the slough, the bog,
The estuary, where my life begins or ends,
Bursting with an unshallow tongue.
Also, common birds of sudden flight,

Glorytime. In spite of all that
Slip under my womanwing...
Plunge like a gull from the infinite

To find harbor in the lee:
I offer contemplation
Of greenbunched daffodils,

Or a rudderless leaf riding to the sea,
Home again.


WE:  What led you to write your book?

BC: Estuary is my work from an intense year of writing after I had a heart attack.
This is a personal accomplishment for I am truly a woman of few words, (spoken aloud, that is, and why I write poetry) - each poem a microcosm of my own universe.  Estuary is divided into two parts, Earth, humanity, and Fire, relationships.  But it feels altogether  different from No Name Harbor, Poetry of Barbary Chaapel and Journey of the Snow Goose, which is about the journey of 7 1/2 years aboard a sailboat.  I have a feeling Estuary is more gritty, with a more observable knowledge of  the intricacies of relationships, sexual and familial, ageism, illness, longing.  Perhaps I’ve learned the word, finite, in relation to time and have come to speak more forthrightly.


WE:  Your poems are so strongly about place - why is that important, to

BC: I nearly broke my own heart writing Hill Walker in No Name Harbor, then At The Morgue in Estuary.  Because mostly in this book I write what I have seen and felt in Appalachia.  In No Name Harbor my sailing poems are from direct experience, which I loved - the Farrington’s, tiny Cynthia and her father, in Nassau, the feisty bread lady on Long Island, Bahamas,  the Lake Erie poems.  I am so filled with the spirit of adventuring into the oneness of the world when I write of people’s cultural habits.  


WE:  How can poetry give a sense of self, of place, of being?

BC: It seems I have lived many different lives: I get homesick for the fog horn back home on Lake Erie, my youth left there in Ohio.  I feel a longing for the freedom to sail away from shore whenever I please.  I feel the pull of those other lives, so write about them.  Living now in these mountains of West Virginia has given my writing a new turn.  I hope readers will recognize themselves in some of my words.
And be at home with them.

Lunar Spell

An ink-wash of night sky,
Slight windshimmer in the leaf canopy.

The Owl who talks too much,
Hoots when he shouldn't...

Alerts Wood Rat and the Lovers
In the bramble and the Cow with bell

Tinkling 'round the bog path.
Imagine you have magic

And know things
As you travel this dark legend,

Where grows the white trillium,
And black bulrushes, starwort.

You recognize yourself,
The shade of you

Fresh from rapture,
Clothed in dew.

His mouth quivers.
Your teeth gleam.

Deep in the heart of summer,


WE:  One of your poems, Fish Swimming in Butter, ends with the line,
'No perimeters on my street guide'. I love that concept, of traveling and
living thusly in the world. Can you share more of this worldview?

BC: Perhaps early experiences, such as the one in Fish Swimming in Butter ,
helped shape my worldview of total acceptance of the many varieties
of man and womankind.  There is a certain joy in my unequivocal knowledge
that I am equal to anyone, that everyone is equal to me.  It allows me humility at all times and perhaps insight with which to write.     


WE:  You've traveled all over in your boat, the Snow Goose - where do you
find inspiration for your poems?

BC: Most of my writing is a response to where I’ve been and what I’ve heard
or seen and felt.  Sometimes just listening to a colorful word or phrase
will start the process - and, of course, there are those harrowing moments
in rough seas aboard the Goose with my husband, Bill and  Honoree, the
sailor cat.  Also, there is a delicious kind of inspiration in sharing food and
drink with another culture, whether it be in one of our own United States
or breakfast in a German restaurant with dogs under one’s table or rum
in a jelly coconut with an out island Bahamian policeman.


WE: Who offers you encouragement to write?

BC: For the last twenty years I have been blessed with the  friendship of
extremely talented writers at Barbour County Writers Workshop.  Also, I'm  a member under the umbrella of West Virginia Writers, Inc.   West Virginia nurtures her many writers.  I am a member of the pre-Simulationist Movement Group, a vanguard world-wide group of  prescient artists, poets, and writers.  And I was greatly encouraged by Lost Hills Books in MN, who published Estuary.

I Could Walk Into That Painting
Evening At Kuerners, Andrew Wyeth

At lastlight,
First frost in the air.
Apples pulled from lower limbs along the way
Rub shiny, red and green in my pockets.

When I look behind me, I whistle.
Slow to a walk when I see our lighted windows,
Follow the spilling light to the glassy run
Below the house. Inside,

A piano is played with hesitant fingers...
Clara Schumann seeps through
Stucco to accompany the evening peepers.
Perhaps inside I'll know warmth

At the wooden table, and pepperpot broth.
A lanky dog named Rattler
Will lie against my feet as I tell my day
To the listeners in the kitchen.

We might even look out the window at how light
Falls on the sluiceway and dun-colored slope,
How the fallen leaf moon
Lights up our life.


WE:  Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

BC: Yes, I would like to praise you, the Wandering Educators.
And  thank you for this opportunity to speak with you.

Thanks so much, Barbary. Your poetry has touched many people, me included. I re-read your poems often, they mean so much to me.

For more information, please see:

Published by Lost Hills Books
Available at Barbary Chaapel Publications

Comments (4)

  • nonameharbor

    12 years 7 months ago

    Thank you so much for this opportunity to speak with you about my poetry.



         "Take the adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes!"

           ...The Wind In The Willows, Kenneth Grahame

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    12 years 7 months ago

    Barbary - thank you so much for sharing this with us! I can't wait for the next one. You're a wordsmith!


    Jessie Voigts


  • monacake

    12 years 7 months ago

    wonderful interview and poems. barbary's words are enlightening and thought-provoking...i look forward to having a copy of this book on my nightstand!

  • nonameharbor

    12 years 7 months ago


     Thank you so much for those kind words.


     "Take the adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes!"

           ...The Wind In The Willows, Kenneth Grahame

Leave a comment