Carol Boutard and her husband Anthony have been dear friends of mine since we first met fourteen years ago at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market, where I'd sought them out after tasting their incredible blackcap jam. (I knew we were fated to be fast friends when she and I subsequently plotted to start a catalog of sexual aids featuring foods like that jam that were so good you wanted to lick it off.) Their Ayers Creek Farm is legendary in the region for the quality of the organic products they have grown on its 144 acres for more than 20 years.
Carol has published her first book of poetry titled "Each Leaf Singing," a paen to the life of that farm and an elegy to both Anthony, who is living with a terminal illness, and the farm itself, which she celebrates at the same time as grieving its eventual loss.
But what a life they've had there. I wrote in my very first post about this incredible couple, "When they started talking about their 144 acres near Gaston and their eyes lit up when they told about the arrowhead lilies that grow there and how they changed to a drip irrigation system because the overhead sprinklers were washing out the birds' nests, I knew this wasn't going to be an ordinary evening.
"These two are as committed to the stewardship of their land as they are to the quality of the berries and grains they've become known for. It's evident in the way Anthony (known as the Bard of Ayers Creek) describes how the lake on their property is returning and that the least bitterns, herons and eagles are coming back. And, too, when Carol said that they stop picking the berries when the fruit loses its brilliance after the first few pickings, even though there's fruit left on the vines."
As Rosemary Catacalos, Texas State Poet Laureate Emerita, writes of Boutard's poems, "After decades of intimacy with the turning of the earth and its seasons, Caroline Boutard has given us a book brimming with an ancient wisdom. In these poems our harried modern lives can slow down and remember the blessed comings and goings of all things. We can learn again what it means to grieve and celebrate in the same breath. Because we must. Trust this voice, 'dumb on sun and sugar,' to sing you into now and whatever comes next."
A poem titled "Old Oak" is emblematic of that singular voice.
I leave the work and rush out
to early spring
with no more plan than a good walk
as robins and juncos,
flashing like jackknives,
cleave low angles of afternoon light.
No route than stepping round the mud,
I pass through a veil of smoky air,
its note of orange blossom
from old oak dried slow,
then burned in a clean hearth,
to breathe in
this sweet musk and find
every grassy thing along the way roused
by the warm day, their stems extended
like antennae tuned to the fresh season.
I stop to harvest
from the ruddy mix of plants
galloping through the field—
sow thistle and poppy,
wild radish, dandelion, cress,
so full of healing
you have to eat them standing up,
everything around me
pushing toward renewal.
The plan here is more life,
Carol is launching this stunning collection with a virtual reading on Thursday, Sept. 30, at 7pm (PST) via Zoom (click on this link to attend).