The Dark Earth and Selected Prose
from the Depression Era
By Sanora Babb
"This book is a fitting monument to a rare and extraordinary writer whose nuanced fiction and journalism engage the politics of everyday life. Babb explores the lived experience of the overlooked people stranded or kicked to the sidelines by the remorseless class, gender and racial oppression of the Depression era. With verve and empathy, she shapes our perceptions of what it is to be human in a well-timed collection that speaks to our own moment of protest and reflection." —Alan Wald, author of Exiles from a Future Time: The Forging of the Mid-Twentieth-Century Literary Left
A new collection of short stories and journalism by Sanora Babb, written between 1932 and 1949, brings to life the painful period of the Great Depression. Arranged chronologically, from early autobiographical short fiction to her leftist journalism and later more innovative fiction, Babb's work interweaves fiction and non-fiction into her characteristic storytelling, lyrical style.
With unique insight, Babb writes with a passion and empathy gained through personal experiences that Erin Royston Battat details in her introduction. From Babb's work with the Farm Security Administration and as a labor organizer, she was eyewitness to the lives of displaced farmers and immigrant laborers, striking miners and refugees. She recorded their experiences of food insecurity, of jailings and beatings by sheriffs and strike-breakers with a sympathetic ear and an unblinking eye. Whether real or fictional, the people in these pages may suffer within a system that fails them more often than not, but they are also bursting with potential and desire.
Babb advocates for workers in her journalism, and in her short stories she expresses the beauty and pain of struggling individuals. While some of Babb's stories may seem quaint to modern readers, they survive the test of time through their powerful evocation of a sense of place, sensitivity to complex family relationships, and environmental or eco-feminist sensibility.
Included are short stories published in literary and progressive journals as diverse as Kansas Magazine and The Anvil, reportage written for New Masses, The Clipper, and New Theater, as well as a small selection of previously unpublished fiction and reportage. This new collection includes the widely anthologized "The Wild Flower," Babb's preface and her four stories in the earlier The Dark Earth, and a new introduction by Erin Royston Battat, author of Ain't Got No Home.
Cry of the Tinamou: Stories
By Sanora Babb
The short stories in this collection range across cultures and settings from the Great Plains to California. Babb portrays strong and memorable characters, notably female protagonists who overcome adversity to control their fate. All are vividly depicted with a powerful sense of place. With one exception, all the stories were previously published with "The Santa Ana" and "The Wild Flower" widely anthologized. "Cry of the Tinamou" first appeared in this collection. In his introduction, Alan Wald provides the context of Babb's life and publishing history, identifying her as "a writer of such originality and quality. . .whose forte is the revelation of the subtleties of character."
"Babb is a writer of great skill and humanity. A spirit of wise humor and compassion invest her stories, which deal with human struggle and endurance. . . . [She is] a clear-eyed observer of human behavior, a lyric poet of great sensitivity, and a gentle satirist of human folly. . . . Grounded firmly in place and social circumstance, her writing speaks to timeless concerns. . . . Babb is a consummate artist of the short-story form."—Douglas Wixson, author of Worker Writer in America
"Babb can sing, and convince us, at least for a while, that to touch bottom is to find hope."
—Small Press Magazine
Second edition 2021
Told in the Seed and Selected Poems
By Sanora Babb
This new collection spans more than sixty years of Sanora Babb's poems. Many of her earliest poems are added to those of her later years in the original Told in the Seed. An introduction by Carol S. Loranger notes that "Of all Sanora Babb's writings, it is the poetry, perhaps, that offers the most intimate and unvarnished picture of the woman and the artist." She weaves together relevant information about Babb's life with the more personal poems to further enhance the reader's appreciation.
Babb won the Borestone Mountain Poetry Award in 1967 for "Told in the Seed" and the Gold Medal Award in 1932 for "Captive" from the Mitre Press Anthology, London. With a strong empathy with people and their daily lives, an affinity with all in the natural world, and the ability to elevate the ordinary into the extraordinary, Babb reflects all this in her poetry.
"This beautifully edited retrospective on the poetry of Sanora Babb reveals the haunting timelessness of her work. Her use of whimsy, detail and irony makes her feel quite contemporary. Her imagery complicates her verse without making it obscure: "I am a wind/That will trouble/Your door/And never/Come in." But most impressive is her ability to conclude a poem at precisely the right moment when "Language is undone,/Thoughts translate/To pure meaning." —Cathryn Essinger, author of The Apricot and the Moon
"This comprehensive collection of Sanora Babb's poetry is long overdue. It offers both a reprint of Babb's 1998 collection and many additional poems that have never been collected. Many of the poems depict Babb's close relationship with nature, showing her intimate understanding of how deeply human life and natural life are intertwined. Her understanding of the natural world rivals that of the New England poet, Amy Lowell. Enhancing this collection is a detailed introduction that situates her work in the history of American poetry."—Iris Jamahl Dunkle, author of Charmian Kittredge London and West: Fire Archive.
The Lost Traveler
By Sanora Babb
Sanora Babb's novel, long out of print, is almost entirely autobiographical and continues her story begun in her memoir, An Owl on Every Post. The extensive introduction by Douglas Wixson, English Professor Emeritus, provides a great deal of historical information on the author and the literary opportunities that existed in the early 20th century.
Set in Kansas in the early 1930s, it is a rich character study of the classic American individualist, Des Tannehill, and his family. The father, a complex and magnetic man, is portrayed from the perspective of his brave and proud daughter Robin as she seeks autonomy as a young adult. Against the dark background of Des' declining fortunes stand Robin's high spirits and intelligence as she experiences the turbulent emotions of first sexual love and rebels against the circumstances of the gambler's rambling life. The novel's depiction of Depression-era America and its lost families is one that will haunt readers long after the final page.
"There is a good deal of laughter in The Lost Traveler. There is a good deal of tragedy in it, too, for Ms Babb has given us a living and unflinchingly honest picture of a wandering gambler and his family. This is her first novel and she shows herself to be a searching storyteller."— New York Times
"Sanora Babb has done a remarkable job of making the hero, Des Tannehill, sympathetic and understandable in spite of his occupation and occasional brutality. In fact, she has made the whole family come alive, particularly Robin, the older daughter, the only member of the family with fortitude enough to stand up to her father." – Los Angeles Mirror News
"Strongly recommended. A fascinating story of a professional nomadic gambler who starts by being a hero in the eyes of his wife and daughters and ends in lonely disgrace: occasionally embarrassing, frequently funny, and as an account of the development of family relationships good by any standards."—London Sunday Times
An Owl on Every Post
By Sanora Babb
A memoir of literary and historical quality that well deserves this new edition.—from the new Foreword by William Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize Winner
Sanora Babb (1907-2005) experienced pioneer life in a one-room dugout, eye-level with the land that supported, tormented and beguiled her; where her family fought for their lives against drought, crop-failure, starvation, and almost unfathomable loneliness. Learning to read from newspapers that lined the dugout's dirt walls, she grew up to be a journalist, then a writer of unforgettable books about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. www.sanorababb.com
An unsung masterpiece—I was completely blown away by it—her ageless story deserves a permanent place in our nation's literature.—Arnold Rampersad, English Professor Emeritus, author of Ralph Ellison: A Biography
On a par stylistically and thematically with Willa Cather's My Antonia, this is a classic that deserves to be rediscovered and cherished for years to come.—Linda Miller, Professor of American Literature at Penn State, chairman of the Editorial Advisory Board for The Cambridge Edition of the Letters of Ernest Hemingway.
Acclaim for the original 1970 Edition
Masterly. Hers is a small song, and not grand opera. But hearing it is a significant and salutary experience.—London Times
Sanora Babb, with quiet humor, and a great all-encompassing love for a land and her people, has created a warm hearth indeed in this book. I hold my hands out to it to be warmed.—Ray Bradbury
Thought-provoking description of the mystery, wonder and poetry of growing up in a pioneering environment. A vivid restoration of an important phase of American history.—Ralph Ellison
An enchanting true story of a childhood on the plains. Absolutely great.—William Saroyan
Ash On Wind
By Sandra Berris
From irreverent titles to couplets swimming down the page to poems that explicitly take off, Ash on Wind is a whirlwind of poems with everything a collection should have and then some. Sandra Berris draws inspiration from relationships' defining moments, breathing new perspective into emotion, and uses language to illuminate truth.
In this first volume of her poems, Berris demonstrates her flexibility with forms ranging from experimental and free verse to the demands of cento, eclogue, paradelle, sestina and haiku. She tailors rhythm and rules for each poem bringing shape as well as voice to her varied subjects. With competent use of metaphor, her poems tell stories of dementia, loss, death, lovers and divorce, yet also surprise with humor and whimsy.
From the opening poem recalling the execution of a mass murderer to a hand that releases "ash to wind," her poems have enough force to push boundaries and startle the reader. A sampling:
They never gave her back the man they took.
She knew that right away. He won't talk
about what he saw, what he did,
but holds it in, knife-painful.
All the shit of war flows through his arteries.
He doesn't want to talk about it, though
once he told about a chicken, the surprise
of silly bird strut across a rice field.
Bar-be-QUE! said a soldier, so
they set down the chopper. His friend
jumped out in comic strut and sprint.
They guys all laughing.
Then they saw chicken and man
blown to bits. Smaller than anything
cut in a Cuisinart. Gone. For a Goddam chicken.
And once he told of a beautiful prostitute.
Long black hair, tiny features, terrific figure.
And her odd webbed feet from always walking
barefoot, toes splayed across the sand.
But that's it. Tiny feathers
still stick to his skin, get up his nose.
Sociologists say if you know five people
You know everyone in the world.
I haven't met the right five people.
I'm missing whole continents.
A circle looks closed from the outside.
I'll jump in the middle.
Sink to the bottom or rise to the top,
Outside I can only look in.
From THE LOGIC OF SNOW
Two weeks ago, at night, she walked out
Through an emergency exit at the end of a corridor,
An exit where the door clicks shut, for security.
Her knobby arthritic fingers touch metal
Mutton bars on the window, not feeling the cold,
Pushing out her 5'2" frame confident as any.
Her cloudy brain talks to her,
Shall I play golf today? Go the full
18 holes? Yes, I think I can. And she walks
Coatless, oblivious to January temperature,
In blue satin slippers, over ice and snow,
Past thick gray mounds that shovels and plows
Cleared, her brain
Lighting her stroll with sunshine and white roses
And a wide fairway stretching toward the eighteenth green.
A Turn for the Verse: Limericks with a Twist
By Lewis M. Gediman, llustrations by Robert Seaman
Limericks live! You might think that after all this time the venerable verse form would be exhausted. But this original collection of more than 100 limericks breathes new and delightfully quirky life into the classic form. A brief Foreword introduces the reader to some history and varieties of the limerick over time, and notes that this collection, unlike many others, is mostly comprised of "clean" limericks. Ranging from ingenious puns to more inventive flights of creative fancy, and sprinkled throughout with suitably antic illustrations, these humorous verses will have readers smiling, chuckling, and sometimes laughing out loud. For instance:
In his garden, a parson one day
Found that beetles were having their way.
When his wife saw them too And cried "What should we do?",
The parson intoned "Let us spray."
Farsi's a learning excursion,
Best done via total immersion.
A book or CD
Wouldn't do it for me—
I'd rather work Persian to Persian.
Here's something I marvel at still:
How whales get to feed to their fill.
They sweep through the seas
With the greatest of ease,
All the while moving in for the krill.
Master limericist Lewis Gediman is living proof that even clean limericks can ignite endorphins and tickle the funny bone.—Richard Lederer, author of Anguished English
The best collection of clean limericks available today. Gediman's humor is clever and charming and never gets corny or excruciating. He's observant, wise, and does not strain to rhyme. You cannot feel bad while reading this book, and nowhere does it mention Nantucket.—Verified Amazon Purchaser