Barbara Nickel

After the Not Peaceful and Ordinary Sunday

 

Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life. All it needs from you is that you take care not to trample it.  

That’s John Ames, Congregationalist minister, narrator of Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead.

I love John Ames as I’ve never loved a fictional character; I sat at his feet and listened to his gentle voice. Not one to push himself to the front of a crowd and trumpet his views, John Ames; approaching death, he wants his sermons burned. (“The deacons could arrange it. There are enough to make a good fire. I’m thinking here of hot dogs and marshmallows, something to celebrate the first snow.”) I wish his voice haunting the ear of the gunman in Quebec before he fired at the praying men. You take care not to trample. The silent and invisible life of prayer, care not to trample, the three-year-old with his father at prayer.

Obama loves John Ames, too. He read Gilead while campaigning in Iowa. He reveals this in an enlightening conversation with M. Robinson in The New York Review of Books (in two parts, November 2015) here:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2015/11/05/president-obama-marilynne-robinson-conversation/

and here:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2015/11/19/president-obama-marilynne-robinson-conversation-2/

Obama: “…the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels. It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found…” The whole conversation brings to mind the vast gulf, to say the least, between the last U.S. president and the current one.

But in these days of hate the quiet and small kindnesses are accumulating like at The Book Man in downtown Chilliwack; if you don’t take a bag for your books, you can drop in a token for local literacy or families in transition or even for Nietzsche the Bookstore Cat (community cats and dogs) and there’s the hollow clink of one but a week later a whole heap and there’s a heap of books to read for every trumping tweet.

Yesterday evening, browsing there, I found a novel I’d loved and lost and then found and found again and from it this passage in the wake of death and the face of hate:

For families will not be broken. Curse and expel them, send their children wandering, drown them in floods and fires, and old women will make songs out of all these sorrows and sit in the porches and sing them on mild evenings. Every sorrow suggests a thousand songs, and every song recalls a thousand sorrows, and so they are infinite in number, and all the same.

 

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News

Dear Peter, Dear Ulla has been nominated for the 2022 High Plains Book Award. Barbara will appear at author panels and the awards ceremony in Billings, Montana on October 8, 2022.


Dear Peter, Dear Ulla has been nominated for the 2023 Rocky Mountain Book Award (Alberta Young Readers Choice Award).


The Manitoba Young Readers Choice Awards (MYRCA) has nominated Dear Peter, Dear Ulla as a 2023 Northern Lights (Grades 7-9) finalist!


Dear Peter, Dear Ulla is a finalist for the BC and Yukon Book Prizes. Winners to be announced in Vancouver on September 24, 2022.


Essential Tremor reviewed in The Vancouver Sun. Read full review here.


Dear Peter, Dear Ulla is reviewed and “Highly Recommended” in CM (Canadian Review of Materials)! Read the full review here.


Barbara’s poem “Essential Tremor” is included in the anthology Best Canadian Poetry 2021, edited by Souvankham Thammavongsa, published by Biblioasis in October.


Barbara has been chosen as a featured poet on TransLink, BC Transit, and the Association of Book Publishers of BC’s Poetry in Transit 2021/22. 


Rob Taylor interviews Barbara about Essential Tremor, part of a nine-part series of interviews for National Poetry Month, in Read Local BC. Check out the interview here.


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