What Flies Away


In stock (can be backordered)

Poems by

Ann Campanella

Poetry book, 77 pages. Cover price: $12

ISBN: 978-1-59948-034-4

Release date: 2006



campanellaFormerly a magazine and newspaper editor, Ann Campanella turned to creative writing because of the need to focus on things that moved her. Twice, she has received the Poet Laureate Award, the highest honor of the North Carolina Poetry Society. Her poetry was selected for the Blumenthal Readers & Writers Series by the North Carolina Writers’ Network. Her writing, nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Main Street Rag, has appeared in local and national publications and anthologies including Chelsea, Crucible, Earth and Soul, Iodine Poetry Journal, Iris, Kakalak, Pembroke, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry and many others. Campanella has a degree in English Literature from Davidson College in North Carolina and lives with her husband, daughter and animals on a small horse farm in Huntersville, North Carolina.

In Ann Campanella’s remarkable new book of poems, What Flies Away is literally life itself, and the people and animals in it whom we love. The mother is struck with Alzheimer’s, the father dies, a beloved horse is put down, the narrator turns forty and feels her own life flying away, and then a baby is born, a miraculous red-headed girl who gives life back not only to the parents but to her grandmother, and of course, to the reader. We are riveted to these poems, as step by step we experience the loss, the grief, the mourning, and then the astounding resurrection. It’s a book to read and read again. Every poem in the book is part of the journey, and the journey changes the reader. This is what poetry is about.

–Anthony S. Abbott
author of The Man Who

“We all live the way we know how.” Ann Campanella’s stoic code only underscores the deep feeling in What Flies Away. In this collection of searching poems, loss and sorrow are considered in their dread fullness and the heartache of grief is given resonant voice. But finally, there is hope, belief in tomorrow when “your eyes will be lit with fire/and you will be alive.” Here are poems of a faith genuine and bitterly achieved.

–Fred Chappell
former Poet Laureate of North Carolina

These poems…are essentially elegies written in advance. They are clear-sighted and unsentimental; at the same time, they are full of sentiment. I look forward to more of Ann Campanella’s work.

excerpt from an essay in Chelsea 67
Maxine Kumin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Lost in Smoke

When I was a child my mother’s body
was long and lean as her Pall Malls.

Mornings, I’d sit under the dining room table
as she smoked and read her paper,
wedge of light from the window
illuminating layers of grey.

When the phone rang, she’d answer,
one wrist cocked at an angle from her hip.
I’d keep my distance from the red tip
smoldering at the end of her fingers.

I rode my tricycle in circles
around her legs as she talked
to our next-door neighbor, cigarette
twitching like a bird in her hand.

Afternoons, I’d sit on the porch steps
cross my stubby legs, purse lips
in an exaggerated pout, stare at the vapor
as smoke drifted from her mouth.

She gave them up when I was ten.
Over the years, her body softened
from angles to curves. I could put my head
on her lap and not get burned.

Nights, I dream she smokes again,
her body no longer thin and jittery
but thick-waisted and slumped
like the stubs she ground out.

The End of Summer

Clouds hang heavy as damp laundry. I miss
summers at the lake, helping my mother
pin sheets and clothes on the line as mist
rose above the water. In pedalpushers
and sweatshirt, she stood like a goddess
on that hill. Across her face curls of auburn hair
played, her eyes clear as the bay on a still day.
If I could stop time, I’d keep her there,
slim arms raised, cheeks smoothed by the breeze
as she draped our things along the line.
Shirtsleeves filled with air, waved and snapped, sheets
billowed like my grandmother’s hospital gown.
I still see the faded legs of my jeans
running through wind, flapping and clean.

Counterfeit Parents

Waking to the tinkling
of ice filling glasses, the cascade
of laughter, I’d pad in pajama feet
to the landing, my sea-green bunny dusting
the wood floors behind me, and press my face
against the white columns of the banister.

In the glow of lamplight, they gathered
at the table, faces behind fans of cards.
The scent of gardenias comes from a woman
who looks like she might be my mother.
She wears flowers and a white scarf. Her hair
curls under at the nape of her neck, while she taps
v-shaped nails on the peanut can, purses red lips,
then whispers words I don’t understand.

Low moans pour from the stereo.
A chair squeaks as a man leans back. He rubs
the dark stubble of his beard with one hand, cups
the cards with his other. I see the slit of his eyes
as they shift from side to side. There’s a fine line
across his lips. This couldn’t be my father.
I press my rabbit’s furless face to mine.

Sometimes, after the others went home,
they’d roll the rugs back and slip off
their shoes. He’d put his hand on the curve
of her hip and they’d drift across the living room,
fingers entwined, legs in time to the swell
of the music. Kneading my bunny,
I’d creep up the stairs and dream of bass tunes
flowing into the slim throats of flowers.

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