Blue Star by Barbara Presnell


Blue Star by Barbara Presnell


9 x 6 paperback, 84 pages

ISBN 978-1-941209-44-8

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Praise for Blue Star

The title of Barbara Presnell’s blazing new book of poems, Blue Star, refers to the stars families hang from banners in their windows when a son or daughter is in military service. This timely, lyric, and quietly searing volume weaves history, census and military records, letters, journals, and other artifacts to document a hundred years of war and its wrenching effect on family. These are poems of witness, dire and poignant, that chant long after you close the book, poems that exult the working class—an ethnography of farmers, blacksmiths, and mill workers tithed to the earth for all time, and bound to defend it even unto death, “their steps weary with unfinished war.” Barbara Presnell is the heir and daughter of their sacred anthems. Blue Star is utterly essential.

– Joseph Bathanti, former North Carolina Poet Laureate, author of The 13th Sunday after Pentecost 

The powerful and poignant poems of Blue Star weave together the voices and life stories of men and women across generations of a North Carolina family as they face the realities and aftermaths of war on both the battlefront and the home front. This is first and foremost a testament to the ties that bind mothers and sons, fathers and daughters across time and space. No reader will finish this book and be untouched, nor unchanged through its reading.

– John P. Beck, co-director of Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives, Michigan State University

A mother’s voice shines in the striking family of voices crisscrossing generations in Barbara Presnell’s Blue Star. In this treasure tracing war, race, and the Quaker faith through her family history, Presnell’s heart belongs to her son, to whom the book is dedicated and who she prays “will never see a battlefield.” Some of the book’s most moving poems evoke tender-tough challenges to the mother-son bond, which finds resilience through “small miracles of transformation” as her son becomes a man making a family of his own. We find ourselves in these poems, in each moment of a family’s embattled past and uncertain present, holding “what flutters,” knowing it is our heart. 

– Heather H. Thomas, author of Blue Ruby and Resurrection Papers


About the Author

Barbara Presnell is the author of five collections of poetry, including Piece Work, which won the Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize and was adapted for stage by the Touring Theatre of North Carolina. She has been awarded fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Kentucky Arts Council, and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and has held residencies at Willapa Bay, Wildacres Retreat, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Soapstone, Inc. A native of Asheboro, North Carolina, she teaches at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and lives in Lexington, North Carolina, with her husband, Bill Keesler. 

Read more of Barbara's poetry at