I met Carol in 1996. I attended my first NCWN West poetry critique group and, because there is a God, she was the facilitator. She liked my poetry, for the most part, and in a blind contest she judged the next year, she chose my poem, Tomato Man, for first place. I have always admired Carol's quiet demeanor and appreciated her gentle critique that never failed to improve my work.
She gave me advice on where to submit my poems. Carol went up to Berea, KY to accept an award and met the editor of Appalachian Heritage literary journal, Danny Miller.
“He is taking a job as poetry editor at the Journal of Kentucky Studies,” she told me. “He invited me to send him some poems. I think you should send some of your work.”
I trusted her judgement. I submitted three poems. The editor accepted one of them. Never was I so proud as when I saw my poem right next to Carol’s comic put poignant “You’re Not My Dog.” Some of our Netwest members will remember that poem from Carol's readings.
For years I’ve looked forward to when Carol would publish a poetry collection. The Habit of Mercy is a book for mothers and daughters. The pangs of watching them grow up, knowing one day the protected and beloved child will face the world as a woman on her own is almost too painful when I read these lines from The Shoes.
She whips the box lid off
and shows me her new shoes.
They are doorstops.
Their four-inch heels
will make her taller than her father,
will put her ahead of us somehow.
I make expected mother-sounds,
predict sprained ankles,
groan about the weird
things kids wear.
But I am thinking
they will take her
out of reach, beyond protection,
closer to those dangers
she is falling in love with
Repetitive Use brings to mind the constant chorus heard from mothers of young children. That twinge in a joint that was not there last week is a malady recognized only by mothers who become cross-country parents taking kids to academic competition, soccer games, band performances, dental appointments and all the myriad places children must go and must be driven. There is a pathos in these poems, a mother relinquishing her umbrella of protection, letting go. Letting her children test their wings, knowing as they do that she, as did her mother, must accept a new role.
It set in at a time I can’t remember
on the trek from cradle to crayon to college
when something in the sinew softened,
something near the bone gave way.
Maybe the poem I most relate to is Grand. Remember a special event you longed to share with your mom? It begins with these words.
Where do I send
the prom portraits
of my girl
now that you are gone?
With so many poems in this book that I love to read over and over, I can’t give them full measure in this short space. Take my word for it. You just have to get the book.
Carol Crawford graduated from Baylor University. Originally from Texas, she now lives in the North Georgia mountains where she is director of FLAG Adult Education and volunteer coordinator for the annual Blue Ridge Writers’ Conference. She lives with her husband Len, tennis addict and rabid UGA fan. When not knitting, writing, or wrangling dogs Dash and Laddie, she is probably emailing her daughters.
To order The Habit of Mercy, contact Carol Crawford, firstname.lastname@example.org