Crossing the Sea

Pre-order Crossing the Sea now! Copies are $14.50 USD until November 30 and $15.95 thereafter.

Phoenicia Publishing, November 2020

Heart-full, love-rich, rapt with intricate attention and memory, but never shirking the hard parts, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat shares a sequence of stunning poems  for her late mother. Her voice is honest as a tree.  This is an extremely moving book for anyone who has known grief,  and feels captivated by how the conversation goes on. 

–Naomi Shihab Nye, author of The Tiny Journalist and Transfer, among others

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat wrote Crossing the Sea during the Jewish tradition’s first year of mourning between her mother’s death and the unveiling of her headstone. In these poems, she traces the twists and turns of the mourner’s path, first remembering the circumstances of her mother’s last days, and then moving from the sharp pangs of early grief to times of introspection and memory, which again give way to a gradual acceptance of finality, and awareness of a new kind of continuity.

Is grief ever completely simple? As in her previous books about the Torah, and about birth and early motherhood, in Crossing the Sea Rachel takes apart a difficult subject. As both a daughter and a mother herself, she remembers and examines her relationship with her mother in all its fullness and complexity, acknowledging and lamenting its shortcomings and disappointments in both directions, while celebrating what was given, what was shared, and what was repaired over time. Because of that honesty, the reader is invited to accept their own imperfections and the imperfection of human relationships while navigating the very real and unpredictable waters of mourning.

Poignancy and regret are here, but also perseverance, humor, and vivid stories. Above all, these poems reveal a profound sense of humanity and the potential for continuing growth, even when one person in the relationship is no longer with us.

I knew Rachel’s mother. We came from the same small Texas town, ate the same mango mousse served in a fluted ring mold. Rachel captures the complexity of their relationship through similar telling descriptions and snippets of dialogue, then a miracle happens. My mother is there, too. Crossing the Sea moves past the personal as women readers identify and remember, laying these pebble poems on their own mothers’ stones.

— Nan Cuba, author of Body and Bread, winner of the PEN Southwest Award in Fiction

Rachel Barenblat’s poems open us to the heart of mourning: grappling with the loss of a parent, with whom our relationship was so close yet so complicated. She captures the tension between love and discord, the thrust and tug of distancing and reconciliation. She takes us with her on a winding path of grieving over the seasons of a year. Through that prism she refracts two lifetimes and three generations, rendering them with emotional honesty and insight. I was moved, I was brought back to my own loss, and I was brought a little closer to healing.

— Mark Nazimova, Jewish liturgist, New York City

Pre-order Crossing the Sea now! Copies are $14.50 USD until November 30 and $15.95 thereafter.