TEA and other assorted poems


poems by

Ruth Moose

Poetry book, 100 pages, cover price $14

($12 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-254-5

Release date: 2010


Ruth Moose has taught creative writing at UNC-Chapel Hill since l996. She received a McDowell Colony Fellowship and most recently, in 2008, a Chapman Fellowship for teaching. Ruth is the author of two books of short stories, The Wreath Ribbon Quilt (St. Andrews Press) and Dreaming in Color (August House) as well as five other poetry collections. TEA and other assorted poems is a follow up to her extremely successful book The Librarian and other poems, published in 2009 by Main Street Rag. Her poems and stories have appeared in Atlantic Monthly,Redbook, Prairie Schooner, Yankee, The Nation, Christian Science Monitor among other places. Her stories have been published in England, Holland, South Africa, and Denmark.


Rich in luscious detail, Ruth Moose’s poems alert the senses and surprise the mind.

–Joanna Catherine Scott


Every poem should contain an element of surprise; either we learn something new, or something old is made new again through images or metaphors. In TEA, we learn too long unnoted information about Clara Schumann’s remarkable career and her unflagging love for her husband Robert. And our vision is extended as we read of “the white silk of day” or “biscuits that rise like hope”. Ordinary items like fruitcake, paper bags and flour paste become extraordinary, and burying roadkill becomes a sacred moment.

–Sally Buckner


(From a review of Ruth’s previous book, The Librarian,
which appeared in Greensboro News and Record)

Moose writes lines as spare as the titles of her poems. The poems and their rhythms and images are grounded in the ordinary; life as we live it every day. The language is direct and unadorned. She makes connections between quotidian objects and the large issues that can save or strangle us.

Why she’s not better known is beyond me.

–Charles Wheeler


These poems based of the life of Clara Schumann tell the story of three musicians, Clara Schumann, her husband, Robert and Johannes Brahms. The men are known as great composers, the woman remembered only as the wife of Robert Schumann. Yet, during her lifetime, Clara Schumann was the more famous of the three. She toured Europe, performed in the greatest concert halls, was the first woman to achieve an international reputation as a pianist.

Clara Josephine Wieck was born l8l9 into a musical family. Her mother was a singer and pianist, her father an outstanding music teacher. Her parents divorced in l825 and custody given the father. A quick study with obvious talent, Clara, at nine, performed at Gewandhaus, the German equivalent of Carnegie Hall. She toured with her father, was praised by Mendelssohn, Paganini, Chopin and Liszt.

She fell in love with Robert Schumann. Her father felt he was unstable and forbid the marriage. Schumann petitioned the courts and after a bitter, five year legal battle won Clara’s hand in marriage. Clara kept a rigorous concert tour to support her husband and eight children. After Robert Schumann attempted suicide, he was taken to a private mental asylum in Endenich, Germany where he died two years later. Clara was not allowed to see her husband as the doctors feared any memory of his past might bring on a relapse. Brahms, who was friend to both Robert and Clara, visited often. After the death of her husband, Clara raised their children while maintaining a demanding performance schedule and teaching. She died in l896. During her lifetime she composed 28 known lieder, of which l8 were published. All are virtually unknown, rarely performed today.


Clara Wieck, Age 9, Plays Gewandhaus



I feel the music in my fingers,
taste it in my mouth like marzipan.
I drink the notes
like milk and they make
my whole body strong. For papa
I play and play. I am his
best pupil.

And after I play,
I like the long roses
almost as tall as me
and tea with papa and his
friends. Papa lifts me
up, up until I feel heat
from the lamps and light so fine
I am golden all over. I am pink,
and my silk dress so heavy
with music and smiles and papa’s
heart is happy as the roses
in my arms.

I played for Paganini
on a terrible piano,
all black keys, Hummel’s
Concerto in G. He said
I had a future in music
because I played with feeling.

I practice three hours a day
and distinguish keys by ear.
Father says I have the fingers.


If I get Ten Gold Louis

August 27, l854

I think of you going to the concert
hall like a priestess to the altar.
I hope you did not overtire
yourself with certain studies
in C Sharp minor. Hatels
has accepted my Variations
but will pay only a small fee.
Business people really know
no delicacy in money matters.

I have now completed my library
of books. I have bought Aeschylus’
Seven Tragedies and a volume
of Plutarch’s Lives. I shall
soon not know what else to buy.
Already I have Shakespeare’s
and Schumann’s Complete Works,
Goethe’s Poems, Hoffmann.
If I get ten gold louis,
I shall have a hard struggle
staying away from the bookshops.

Will you be away
much longer?
I have a terrible longing
to see you again, dearest lady.

Hours of Zinc and Lead

Feb. l3, l86l

I fear the tour
to Belgium will be tedious;
virgin territory, my music
unknown,but I have seven children
dependent on me. How can I tell
how long my life will be?
Am I to grind it in perpetual worry
for my daily bread?

I played the palace
and what did I get? Nothing
but applause until the princess
sent in secret 8 guineas.

Then I played three court
concerts without halfpenny more.
The old princess sent me a bracelet,
a hideous one discarded long ago.
I could not rush to the sellers
fast enough only to find it filled
with lead and zinc…like my heart
at that moment.

If only we could live once
more in the same town. I might
recover peace and good cheer
if I lived with a dear friend.

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