Uncommon Book of Prayer / Sam Barbee


Uncommon Book of Prayer

poems by

Sam Barbee

ISBN: 978-1-59948-870-7, 48 pages, $13 (+ shipping)

Release Date: March 25, 2021

The Advance Sale Discount price expired 3/10/21. For those who prefer to pay by check, the price is $17/book (which includes shipping and applicable sales tax) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001. 


Sam Barbee‘s poems have appeared Poetry South, The NC Literary Review, Crucible, Asheville Poetry Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina, Georgia Journal, Kakalak, and Pembroke Magazine, among others; plus on-line journals Vox Poetica, Sky Island Journal, Courtland Review and The New Verse News. His second poetry collection, That Rain We Needed (2016, Press 53), was a nominee for the Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best poetry collections of 2016. He was awarded an “Emerging Artist’s Grant” from the Winston-Salem Arts Council to publish his first collection Changes of Venue (Mount Olive Press); and is a Pushcart nominee

Sam Barbee’s Book of Uncommon Prayer is not just a beautifully descriptive travel journal, the heart-felt inklings of the-poet-on-tour, but a veritable love-letter to England’s historical south. Indeed, in a real sense, it’s a love-letter to ‘History’ herself. Ever-conscious of England’s complicated past, Barbee sings a sweet psalm to the land of ancient time. From this Northern Irish poet-in-exile, no higher praise can come – Barbee makes me homesick for the islands I still call home. ~Adrian Rice


Barbee’s work is an intimate travel journal in exquisite verse. He deftly shines the light of England’s landscapes—pastoral and urban, contemporary and historical—to illuminate his own interior castles and ruins. In counterbalance, the collection reveals a father and husband as tender, playful, protective and passionate, reminding us family dynamics come with the trip. Barbee’s attention to detail enlivens every page, justifying his deep affection for the “British Isles,” his closing poem. ~Donna Love Wallace


Sam Barbee’s new collection, Uncommon Book of Prayer: A Journal of England is a travelogue, in verse, rather than the ostensible diary of a spiritual journey at which the title hints. But what’s most daring is the poet’s frank praise of family life threaded throughout these poems. One finds in Barbee’s stream-of-consciousness sketches celebrations of castles and churches, ruins with whispered ancient stories of England and her church, as well as mother tongue we speak. ~Janet Joyner, author of Waterborne, Wahee Neck, and Now Come Lilacs





Distance dotted with sheep and Guernsey.
Vales and streams and plumes of trees.
A checkerboard of pasture and heather.
Lilac and rape seed await harvest.

From horizon to forever, the Salisbury Plain
convinces there is no reason to rush.
It provides the view that never recedes
and allows dusk lush cushion for sleep.

Stonehenge broods on the smooth ridge:
silent summons, pre-historic peal,
to worship: among the three rings,
across barrow, beneath summer solstice sky.

Welsh stones erect for the short night.
Lintels bridge one monolith to another.
From a hinted millennium, a pastoral odyssey –
perfect circle toppled but rite unbroken,

allows each sunrise entry to the altar.
Adjacent fields host lambs
chasing ewes across the meadow.
A farmer leans against a bale wagon.

His children wade through deep grass toward
unsheared sheep singing to this sacred ring’s
slaughter stone – here the perished wake
in blood beside the path, lily-blooms along the swale.

Within hedgerows, arterial vines replenish
gnawed stubble, and gird the acres
for new seasons. Collies herd the Guernseys
through a stream while a splash of clouds

immerses into nightfall, ushering visitors
through the cedar gate on breadth
of the stones’ late shadow. A tradesman
trims the briar, slashes any unruly virgin thorn.






I awaken as Hawk:
red tail, mythical
concentric circles above wheat
diving onto small animals
content to feast on rat or weasel
shadow tightening with altitude
crooked beak, cold talon.

Unlike a white-feathered dove:
corn-fed, silky
cousin to pigeons of the square
pale eyes that never stalked
fit only to carry a risk-free message –
never with the captain amid a skirmish
nor with his maiden within the tryst.

Renown in master’s kingdom:
mystical, yes
as sentinel atop oak branch perch
or gripped onto brown gauntlet
or strapped to my noble’s wrist
or on his lover’s granite sill
I shall keep watch for thee.

My patrol every sunrise:
order to be obeyed below
scare the weak into their crevasses
shadow tightening with altitude
my cerulean silhouette
crooked beak, cold talon.




Land’s End
− Cornwall


What did Vikings behold at land‘s edge:
ruddy rock crag and caves to nowhere,
gulls bunched under cliffs, bull sharks in the water . . .

leaping off vessels lashed onto unnamed terrain –
far from Valhalla and salted meat,
from home where lilacs tint and heather greets. . . .

Two Hundred-seventy degrees of ocean,
the island’s tongue laps the sea.
I shuffle
through the tourist’s maze: Cornish hedges,
museums propped on rock, gift shop’s pledge.

White huts near a jagged church,
chiseled Celtic cross beside a druid’s garden,
stone pillars erected to gauge dawn . . .

compacts drawn once-upon-a-time –
gulls sail and sharks swim the sea – not beckoning,
but content with instinct and their innate bond. . . .

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