by Barbara Robinette
34 Poems ~ 23 Original Watercolor Paintings ~ 57 Pages
Price: $16.00 (Includes shipping)
Format: 6” x 9” Perfect Bound
To order: Contact the author @ 777 Briarwood Road, Viola, AR 72583
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
In an age where much of American literary discourse, has occupied itself with political,
racial and Pandemic issues, reading Barbara Robinette’s latest collection, Affirmation,
is like sleeping on the cool side of a pillow. It is not as if the aforementioned themes have
been overdone, far from it, it is simply that from time to time, I appreciate what this col-
lection offers. And exactly what DOES it offer?
Barbara Robinette holds forth her hand and says, “Come with me on a walk down “Briar-
Wood Road,” which,
is a graveled dirty orange road on top of Arkansas rock
wide enough for opposing vehicles to peacefully pass
woods and pastures beyond barbed wire fences
line each side of this reliable road to somewhere
home or beyond this faithful road’s steep hills
and narrow valleys
The poem continues describing peoples’ dreams and pitfalls, as they pass on that orange road.
Twilight is descending, a lone cow waits atop a hill for her calf to join her. The scene pictures
life subsumed in peace. I read this poem, drew a deep breath, then exhaled.
In “20th Century Lament,” the poet worries that through her preoccupation with “steel and con-
crete,” the “motors and metals,” of making a living,
I never braved the wind in my face,
never walked, the long dusty road home.
Tension exists between these two bookend themes. Within this tension Robinette weaves a
colorful tapestry of ideas and hopes that tethers the reader to practical living. That is, she
understands that good art pins down the core of significance; good art distills life’s essence.
Her poems strive toward such distillation.
For example, in “Poetry and God”:
Warm brown moth
with black spots
on each wing tip
rests in the forest’s afternoon
on a white glistening stone
This is rest that combines the visible outer world of Nature with the more elusive inner world
of human beings. The poet knows that such connections are virtually everywhere, but a respite
is needed from “steel and concrete,” from “motors and metals,” in order to access such palpable
Consider her poem, “Happiness”:
An August dawn and I walk into the misty yard
with corn for the squirrel feeder. The near cry of the
pileated echoes while a distant mate answers
from far within or beyond these woods as it has been
for centuries, the fallen tree trunk dwindles yearly into
decaying leaves … the lone red wildflower startles me.
Can you feel the very simplicity of such an existence? I feel as if the poet is offering a retreat,
a remove to a secluded spot that I might gather myself, recenter myself then, having done so, reenter
the world from which I came. Make no mistake, poets know perhaps better than most, that “steel
and concrete,” “motors and metals” are the means, by which we feed and clothe our children, develop
material equity and satisfy the need to work.
Beyond these necessary things, art offers the best gift of all: Hope. The more difficult our lives, the
more potent a graceful depiction of a sunset, a flower, a jay, or a dance becomes. Art, rightly
understood, engages our tears of disappointment, succors us in times of loss and augments our mom-
ents of joy.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Robinette is also an accomplished painter in the medium
of watercolor. No fewer than 23 original paintings appear throughout the work. I often contemplated
possible connections between the poems and paintings as I worked my way through the volume.
Affirmation, by Barbara Robinette, offers a retreat “on tap” down Briarwood Road. All you must do
is pull the volume off the shelf and enjoy.