Cold Spring Hallelujah by Heidi Barr, Reviewed by Heidi Fettig Parton
Heidi Barr’s Cold Spring Hallelujah: an Offering, a Prayer
I don’t think it’s an accident that Heidi Barr’s first book of poetry, Cold Spring Hallelujah (publishing November 2019) will enter this world the same year beloved poet, Mary Oliver, exited. Oliver’s death left a gaping hole in the collective hearts of devoted readers, that place where her mystical arrangement of ordinary words could direct attention towards the aspects of life worthy of notice; Barr’s words possess a similar capability.
While Cold Spring Hallelujah is Barr’s first poetry compilation, this is Barr’s fourth book—her third with Homebound Publications, an independent publisher with the mission of preserving contemplative storytelling. Cold Spring Hallelujah is arranged in sections, like Invocation and Benediction, that mirror a Christian contemplative service. These poems could be read one a day, as an offering, and as a daily prayer for the earth and our collective health.
Barr, a health coach as well as writer, dedicates this book to “those who seek healing.” Infused with Barr’s firsthand observations of the natural world, her reader cannot help but see that part of the remedy to what ails her is contained in the moving branches outside her window, cannot help but take in some fresh air as an antidote to the frenetic and complex problems facing our world.
Barr has the uncanny knack for being both real and hopeful. A stanza from Barr’s poem, “Shifting Currents,” reads:
Autumn days are
good for witnessing
wind summon the
kind of change
you don’t much want,
but the kind of change
you might just need.
In her poem, “Reflections on Moving Water,” Barr describes a simple practice of observing water and concludes: despite gloom, despair, guilt, and uncertainty, the energy of the world remains fluid.
As I read these poems, I find myself wishing for an early morning ramble around the woods with Barr, same as I desired with Oliver. I know I would then hear the whispers on the wind, notice the subtle signals in the movement of water. Still, Barr’s poetry kicks my own noticing into a higher gear. And there’s something else special about these poems: Barr’s sparse but exquisite use of language manages to pierce the veil of separation between reader and writer. Reading Barr’s words, they become my own—an expression of my heart; they become my prayer.
Surely Mary Oliver’s generous spirit had something to do with this book arriving here at this particular moment in time; we need Barr’s words, this collective Hallelujah, more than ever.
Heidi Fettig Parton
Heidi Fettig Parton holds an MFA in creative nonfiction. Her essays and poetry can be found in many publications, including Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog, Entropy, Forge Literary Magazine, Manifest-Station, and The Rumpus. Heidi lives in Stillwater, Minnesota where she is nearing completion of her first book. Discover more at www.heidifettigparton.com.