Barbara Novack

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Summer 1952, and fourteen-year-old J.W. Valentine wishes the world and everyone in it would leave him alone. His life so far has not gone well. His defenses -- anger and cleverness -- have only gotten him in trouble. And now the state has sent him to a farm for rehabilitation, something he is determined to resist. He finds in the nearby town resentment and suspicion and, out on the farm, Mac, a man who may know something of value, and Cassie, the girl who will haunt him for the rest of his life. Amid the distrust, there is discovery, and through it, J.W. Valentine tells a moving story of love.

"Scenes and characters from J.W. Valentine will linger in your consciousness long after you finish this remarkable novel." -- Dawn Martin

From Amazon:
"What a great read! This book draws you in with its seemingly simple story and strong narrator and leads you through a surprising chain of events. A coming of age story that's firmly rooted in traditions of the genre yet easily transcends them through beautiful and poetic storytelling. To quote JW: 'My feelings were tumbling over each other.' I highly recommend this book!"

Creative Writing Workshops

All creative writing workshops include fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and memoir. All levels welcome at all writing workshops unless otherwise noted. Bring writing materials to workshops.

Creative Writing Workshop at Oceanside Library
September-November, January-June:
7 pm, 3rd Wednesday of the month
(unless otherwise noted).
July-August: 11 am every other Thursday.

Oceanside Library
30 Davison Ave.
Oceanside, NY
(516) 766-2360. Free.

Summer 2015
Every other Thursday at 11 am:
7/​9, 7/​23, 8/​6, 8/​20

Fall 2015
3rd Wednesday, 7 pm
9/​16, 10/​21, 11/​18

Creative Writing Workshop at Rockville Centre Public Library
7 pm.
Rockville Centre Public Library
221 N. Village Ave.
Rockville Centre, NY
(516) 766-6257

Fall 2015
7 pm
9/​9, 10/​14 (2nd Wednesday), 11/​4 (1st Wednesday)


Sunday, 9/​27, 3 pm
Book Launch/​Fundraiser
Free. Open to the public. No RSVP.
Barbara Novack will read from, discuss and sign copies of her new novel J.W. Valentine. 25% of all book sales will be donated to the fund for the Reverend Thomas Catania Memorial Scholarship for English majors.
Reception Room, Kellenberg Hall
Molloy College
1000 Hempstead Avenue
Rockville Centre NY
for more information: English Department (516)323-3260

Host, Poetry Events at Molloy College
Poetry Events are free and open to the public.
Reception Room, Kellenberg Hall
Molloy College Rockville Centre, NY
for more information: (516) 323-3260 English Department

Fall 2015 Season (11th year!):

Sunday, 9/​20 Patrick Phillips, 3 pm

Saturday, 10/​24 Louisa Calio, 3 pm

Sunday, 11/​1 Carlos Reyes, 3 pm


Guest speaker, Sunday, 9/​27, 3 pm. Fundraiser for the Reverend Thomas Catania Memorial Scholarship for English majors. Reading, discussion, book signing
of J.W. Valentine. 25% of all book sales will be donated.Reception Room, Kellenberg Hall, Molloy College, 1000 Hempstead Avenue, Rockville Centre NY.
English Department (516)323-3260.

Guest speaker, Monday 10/​5, 6 pm, Reading, discussion, book signing J.W. Valentine, Laurelton Library , 134-26 225th Street, Laurelton, NY. (718) 528-2822

Featured poet, Friday, 1/​24/​14 , Poetry and Prose at Oceanside Library, 30 Davison Avenue, Oceanside NY, hosted by Peter V.Dugan. (516) 766-2360

Featured poet, Saturday, 3/​23/​13, 2 pm East Meadow Library, 1886 Front Street, East Meadow, NY, sponsored by Performance Poets Association. (516)794-2570

Featured poet, Wednesday, 4/​25/​13, "Celebrating Something Like Life," poetry reading in Molloy College Public Square, book signing to follow in Molloy College Bookstore, Molloy College, 1000 Hempstead Avenue, Rockville Centre, NY

Guest speaker, Tuesday, 4/​30/​13, 10 am, "Poetry: What It Is, What It Does, How To Do It," Molloy Institute of Lifelong Learning, Union Baptist Church, 24 C. Boone Place, Hempstead, NY

Featured poet, Monday, 6/​3/​13, 7 pm, Gazebo Reading Series, Schoolhouse Green, Oceanside, NY.

Featured poet, Friday, 7/​5/​13, 7 pm, Sip This, 64 Rockaway Avenue, Valley Stream, NY, sponsored by Poets In Nassau

Guest speaker, Tuesday, 8/​6/​13, 7 pm, Reading and book discussion, Something Like Life, Rockville Centre Public Library , 221 N. Village Ave., Rockville Centre, NY. (516) 766-6257

Guest speaker, Thursday, 8/​15/​13, 6 pm, Reading and book discussion, Something Like Life, Laurelton Library , 134-26 225th Street, Laurelton, NY. (718) 528-2822

Featured Poet, Friday, 10/​11/​13, 7 pm, Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington, NY. (631) 271-1442.

Recent Publications:

"Human Form with Light" on Summer Gazebo Readings,
http:/​/​ summergazeboreadings., posted April 23, 2013

"Affirmation" and "Billet Doux" on Arts and Music Page,, posted March 23, 2013

"Winter: 10 degrees" in Winter Poems on About Poetry, www.about, posted Feb 7, 2013

Something Like Life (JB Stillwater)

"Free Fall" and "Quest (The Long Ride)" in Writing Outside the Lines (anthology )

"The Woman in Black" in Nassau County Poet Laureate Society Review

"Perpetual" and "Infinities" in Paumanok, Interwoven

"The Poet, Stilled " in Songs of Sandy (anthology)

"Too Far" in Long Island Quarterly,, and in Avocet (Winter 2013)

"Balancing" and "Sh*t" in Whispers and Shouts (anthology)

"A Moment" in Creations Magazine,

"Sandy," on www.thinklongislandfirst.
com, in Oyster Bay Gaurdian and
The Laurelton Monthly, November 2012

"Jiesi: A Death Poem," Perfoprmance Poets Association Literary Review 16

"September," Long Island Poem for Sunday,
www.thinklongislandfirst. com,
posted June 17, 2012)

"New World" in Oberon, Summer 2012

"December Sunday: What We Carry With Us" in Avocet, Winter 2012

"Evening at Jones Beach" in Walt's Corner, The Long Islander June, 2012

"Boomerangs Come Back" Long Island Pulse, www. , April 2012

"Sushi Text" in String Poet, December 2011, Volume 1, Issue 2

"Red Balloon" in Oberon 2011

"The Nature of Winter" in Avocet, Winter 2011

"Progress, "One Leaf," "Simple Gifts" in The Vital Principle, Sterling House, 2011

"Stroke" and "In the Heart" in Toward Forgiveness (anthology), Writers Ink Press, 2010

"Ephemera" in Avocet, Fall 2010

"Late January Blizzard: Aftermath" and "The Rose" in Avocet, Winter 2010

"Father and Child" in Walt's Corner, The Long Islander, December 10, 2009

"Free Fall" and "Something" in 2009 Long Island Sounds (anthology)

"Second Sight," "Resonance" and "Late October Afternoon" in Avocet, Fall 2009

"A Matter of Weight," Boomerangs Come Back," "Cross-Cultural Communication," and "Death Smells Like Old Shoes" in Istanbul Literary Review, Fall 2009

"Doesn't Get Any Better" and " Father and Child" in Creations Magazine June/​July 2009

"Summer Song" on http:/​/​gazeboreadings.blogspot.
com, posted June 1, 2009

"Leap of Faith" in Creations Magazine Feb/​Mar 2009

"Sacrament (On the Southern State Parkway)" and "The Painters" on​nyregion as part of "Regions' Poets Convey Sense of Place" by Tina Kelley, New York Times, 1/​4/​09

"Gifts of the Season,"
"Late January Blizzard: Aftermath,"
and "Sunset" on www.

"January," "Pas de Deux," Jones Beach in Winter," and "Sunset" In Avocet, A Journal of Nature Poems, Winter 2009 issue

"Gifts of the Season" read and discussed on "Frontiers," WHPC-FM, 90.3, 9 pm, 12/​8/​08, rebroadcast 10 am 12/​11/​08

"Theft" in 2008 Long Island Sounds anthology

"Searching for Pain" in Rehabilitation Medicine and Thermography, edited by Mathew H. M. Lee, M.D., and Jeffrey E. Cohen M.D. This poem serves as a thematic introduction to the book.

"Harbinger," "March" and "Affirmation" in Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poetry, Spring 2008

"Archaeology" in Creations Magazine February/​March 2008

"Human Form with Light" in Xanadu (2008)

"Cause and Effect" in In Other Words (anthology, 2007)

"Thaw" and "The Painters" in Songs of Seasoned Women (anthology, 2007)

"Firewall" in 11th Annual Literary Review, Performance Poets Association

"A Defense Against Chaos," September," and "The Painters" in 2007 Long Island Sounds Anthology

"A Defense Against Chaos" and "Elegy" in The Molloy Literary Journal, Spring 2007

"Free Fall" in Slant: A Journal of Poetry

"The Explorers" in Oberon 2006

"Brown Paper Bags" in Nassau Review 2006

"The Virtues of A Short Poem" in Creations Magazine June/​July 2006

"Late January Blizzard Aftermath" in 10th Annual Literary Review, Performance Poets Association

"A Lesson in Quantum Mechanics" in Slant: A Journal of Poetry (2006)

"Progress" in Creations Magazine Feb/​Mar 2006

"Simple Gifts" in Creations Magazine Dec 2005/​Jan 2006

"The Nature of Change" in 9th Annual Literary Review, Performance Poets, Association

"Affirmation," "Of My Father," "A Matter of Weight," "The Nature of Change," and "Ephemera" in The Poet's Art (anthology)

"Rejection" in Nassau Review 2005

"Sacrament (On the Southern State Parkway)" in Long Island Expressions (anthology)

"The Nature of Change," "Archaeology" and "Leap of Faith" in North Shore Woman's Newspaper Jan/​Feb 2005

"Something Like Life" in North Shore Woman's Newspaper Nov/​Dec 2004

"Of My Father" in Tapestries (anthology); North Shore Woman's Newspaper Nov/​Dec 2004

"Naked Singularity" in Performance Poets Association Literary Review

"Elegy" in In Other Words (anthology)

"Sound Effects" in Slant: A Journal of Poetry

"The Poetry Reading" in Nassau Review

"The Arrival of the Poet" in In Other Words (anthology)

"Chekhov, For Beginners" on

"Ruth" on

Recent Honors:

"After the Storm" -- Honorable Mention, Nassau County Poet Laureate Society 2015 Poetry Contest

Cited by Marquis Who's Who for contributions in the field of Fine Arts, 2012

"Phantom Pain" -- Honorable Mention, 5th Annual Celebration of Poetry April 2009, Farmingdale Poetry Group; included in 5th Anniversary Awards Book

"Dreams, Tinsel and Otherwise" and "Sushi Text," previously honored, included in 5th Anniversary Awards Book, Celebration of Poetry, Farmingdale Poetry Group

The Game Is Grace --finalist in Finishing Line Press's 2008 New Women's Voices Chapbook Competition.

Honored at gala celebration at the U.N., in the Delegates Dining Room, 3/​19/​08, marking the publication of Rehabilitation Medicine and Thermography.

"Cause and Effect" -- Editor's Special Recognition Award as best poem in 2007 In Other Words poetry anthology

"Human Form with Light -- Award Winner, Long Island Poetry Collective/​Xanadu Poetry Contest, 2007

"Sushi Text" -- Honors, Second Annual Celebration of Poetry, Farmingdale Poetry Group, 3/​11/​06

"In That Twilight Before Sleep" -- Editors' Choice Award 2005

"Rejection" -- selected unanimously by the editors from over 2000 submissions. Nassau Review 2005

"Sacrament (On the Southern State Parkway)" -- Honors, 15th Annual Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society Poetry Contest

Honored as a Millenium Author, Molloy College, March 29, 2005

"Dreams, Tinsel and Otherwise" -- Award Winner, 1st Annual Poetry Contest, Farmingdale Poetry Group, announced at Celebration of Poetry, Farmingdale Public Library 3/​5/​05

"The Rose" -- Honorable Mention
17th Annual Poetry Contest
Portland Branch, National League of American PEN Women

"September," "Chekhov, For Beginners" and "Billet Doux" -- First Place
7th Annual Poetry Competition
sponsored by the Cultural Arts Center
at Mid-Island Y/​JCC, Plainview, NY
(funded by the New York State Council on the Arts)

"The Poetry Reading" -- selected from over 2000 submissions
Nassau Review 2003

"Billet Doux" -- Editor's Choice Award for exceptional poetry for "its unique perspective and originality."


Do Houses Dream?
Poems by Barbara Novack
Finalist for Blue Light Press 2015 Poetry Prize

Published by Blue Light Press, 2016

Available on

J.W. Valentine, a novel
by Barbara Novack

Published by JB Stillwater Publishing Company, 2015

Available from the publisher (, Ingram, Amazon,, and a bookstore near you.

J.W. Valentine was a finalist for Pushcart Press's Editor's Book Award

Praise for J.W. Valentine:

"Scenes and characters from J.W. Valentine will linger in your consciousness long after you finish this remarkable novel." -- Dawn Martin

"An amazing talent." -- Sharon Kross Esposito

"A very fine writer." Bill Henderson, Pushcart Press

Something Like Life (poetry)
by Barbara Novack

Published by JB Stillwater Publishing Company, 2012

Available from the publisher (, Ingram, Amazon,, and a bookstore near you.

Praise for Something Like Life:

"Barbara Novack's unique poetic voice captures the extraordinary in everything." -- Valerie Griggs

"Poetry at its best." -- Janet Brennan

"A beautiful book! -- Charles Portolano

"Barbara Novack's poetry changes my perspective. She notices things we don't. She brings me out of my problems and opens up a wider world to me."
-- Deborah Nagler

"The light may fade and darkness come, but Barbara Novack's poems will live on forever." -- Roger Dupre

"Barbara Novack's poetry has a clean freshness not commonly seen these days." --Maggie James

"The pleasure I feel every time I read Barbara Novack's poems is that each one is fresh and filled with new-found insights. I compare each one to a wandering sunbeam cavorting along the surface of a crystal bowl causing cascades of erupting glints, beams, twinkles and bits of rainbows." --Bess Marcus

"Barbara Novack is a writer of destiny who sparks the reader's essence. I treasure her work, its power, gentleness and care. She is a poet beyond the ordinary, a great writer." --Dawn Martin

"Each of Barbara Novack's poems brings me to a place of emotional truth and clarity." --Deborah Nagler

"Barbara Novack's poetry exudes warmth and humanity. I have never heard poetry with such humanity." --Denis Gray

"Barbara Novack is an incredible poet with incredible insight into life's situation and emotion." --Lorraine Conlin

"Barbara Novack's poems, filled with quiet, emotive language and varied and expansive images, express a crucial awareness of the world. She is a keen observer of people and the images come most passionately from her heart and her mind. As I read her poems, I connect with her response to nature, people, and intellectual ideas and she brings me in harmony with my own experiences. I love reading her poetry over and over again." -- Anne Dupre

"I have read Barbara Novack's poems and I had no idea I would enjoy poetry this much. I thank her." -- Patrick Noonan

"Barbara Novack's gift is that she can capture an experience in a few lines of carefully shaped verse, and in the process communicate her sense of the moment's emotional quality. Poetry that can delight its readers should be encouraged, particularly in a world that sometimes seems to have lost its appreciation for the well-chosen word and the beauty of thought expressed through imagery." -- Kathleen Conway

"Barbara Novack's sensitive and observant eye, her alert and perceptive mind, her delicate and precise hand have recorded much worth sharing and much worth pondering." -- Robert Kinpoitner

"Among Barbara Novack's many strengths as a writer are her eye for the telling detail, her ear for the cadence of natural speech informed by song, and her soul that always makes the human connection. She makes her people and the world they inhabit -- the world we inhabit -- come alive. Her poems remind readers of the value of words and the worth of the authentic voice." -- Patti Tana

"Barbara Novack's poems are wonderful in their clarity, inner calm and deep understanding." -- George Wallace

"It is an honor to read Barbara Novack's poetry." -- Gayl Teller

"Barbara Novack's unique poetic voice captures the extraordinary in everything." -- Valerie Griggs

Barbara Novack is Writer-in-Residence at Molloy College, Rockville Centre, NY, where she is also a member of the English Department. She is an award-winning writer, and she conducts highly regarded writers' workshops in the New York metropolitan area. In addition to workshops, she presents many popular programs on creative writing, memoir writing and poetry and gives readings of her poetry at various metropolitan area venues.

As Writer-in-Residence, she has founded and co-sponsors, with the Molloy College English Department, the Poetry Events at Molloy College series, which brings contemporary poetry to a wider audience.

Barbara Novack is co-founder and literary editor of Mendicant Order of Poets (, a forum for contemporary poetry.

She is a member of the Authors Guild and The Academy of American Poets, and is listed in the Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers and in Who's Who and Who's Who of American Women.

She has appeared on Channel 12 Morning Edition discussing the value of exploring creativity in writing workshops.

Literary Events at Molloy College
Hosted by Barbara Novack, Writer-in Residence

Founded by Barbara Novack, in conjunction with the English Department, Literary Events at Molloy College include Poetry Events and Author Afternoons, which bring contemporary poets and writers to a wider audience.

Note: Poetry Events have an open reading following the featured poet(s) unless otherwise noted.

Unless otherwise noted, all Literary Events are free and open to the public, with no RSVP required.

Reception Room, Kellenberg Hall
Molloy College
1000 Hempstead Avenue
Rockville Centre, NY
(516)323-3000 for directions
(516) 323-3260 for further information

Fall 2016 (Beginning our 12th year of Poetry Events!)

Sunday, September 25 at 3 pm
Poetry Event featuring Jack Coulehan
An open reading follows the featured poet.

Sunday, October 16 at 3 pm
Poetry Event featuring Carolyn Raphael and musical guest Andrew Lubman
An open reading follows the features.

Sunday, November 6 at 3 pm
Poetry Event featuring Richard Jeffery Newman and Barbara Novack
Note: Barbara Novack will donate 25% of book sales at this event to the Rev. Thomas Catania Memorial Scholarship for English majors
An open reading follows the featured poets.

2015-2016 Season (11th year!)

Sunday, September 20 at 3 pm
Poetry Event featuring Patrick Phillips
An open reading will follow the featured poet.

Sunday, September 27 at 3 pm
Book Launch/​Fundraiser featuring Barbara Novack
Reading discussion, book signing of J.W. Valentine. 25% of all book sales will be donated to the fund for the Reverend Thomas Catania Memorial Scholarship for English majors.

Saturday, October 24 at 3 pm
Poetry Event featuring Louisa Calio
An open reading will follow the featured poet.

Sunday, November 1 at 3 pm
Poetry Event featuring Carlos Reyes
An open reading will follow the featured poet.

Event Archive

2014-2015 (10th year!)
September: Pramila Venkateswaran
October: Iris Levin and George H. Northrup
November: Steven Sher
March: Daniel Brown
May:Readings by contributors to the Nassau County Poet Laureate Society Review, Vol. II

September: Poetry Jam in the Madison Theatre at Molloy College featuring Amber Tamblyn and Derrick C. Brown, with Peter V. Dugan, Megan Falley, Vicki Iorio, and Christina M. Rau
October: Poet Diane Frank
November: Poets Matt Pasca and Terri Muuss
March: Poetry readings by contributors to Paumanok, Interwoven
May: Poets George Guida and Doreen D. Spungin

September: Poet Linda Opyr, plus original songs performed by Ken Bornholdt with Dave Salamone
October: Poets Lois Roma-Deeley and Stuart P. Radowitz
February: Poets Patti Tana and Charles Fishman
March: Poet Ed Stever, plus original songs performed by Ken Bornholdt with Dave Salamone and Bruce Collura
April: Poet Robert Hamblin
April: Poet Barbara Novack celebrating her new poetry collection Something Like Life
April: Contibutors read from Whispers and Shouts: An Anthology of Poetry by Women of Long Island, edited by Gail Goldstein and Judy Turek.

September: Contributors read from Toward Forgiveness, an anthology edited by Gayl Teller, Poet Laureate of Nassau County, 2009-2011.
October: Poet Mary Mackey
November: Poet Annabelle Moseley
March: Poets Jack Anderson and Mario Susko
May: Poet Muriel Harris Weinstein, plus original songs performed by Valerie Griggs

September: Poet Gayl Teller
October: Poets Sandy McIntosh and Phillip Lopate
November: Travel memoirist Vivian Swift
March: Poet John Amen
May:: Poet Charles Ades Fishman

September: Salute to Poets In Nassau featuring Michael Alpiner, Peter Dugan, Ken Fisher, Beverly Kotch, George H. Northrup, Susan Pilewski, and Poets In Nassau founder Christina M. Rau
October: Poet Gloria g Murray
November: Novelist Ellen Meister
March: Poet Yolanda Coulaz
April: Celebration of Long Island Sounds 2009 anthology featuring over forty contribuors. A National Poetry Month special program.
May: Poet Grace Schulman

September: Poet Gladys Henderson
October: Poet Julio Marzan
November: Author Tom Phelan
March: Poet Susan Astor (postponed) replaced by Open Reading
May: Poet David B. Axelrod

September: Poet Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr.
October: Poet Jack Coulehan
March: Poet Graham Everett
May: Contributors read from Songs of Seasoned Women, an anthology of poems by women over 50 edited by Patti Tana.

2006 - 2007
September: Poet Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan
October: Poet Kate Light
March: Poet George Wallace
May: Poet Patti Tana

March: Poet Barbara Novack
May: Poet Daniel Thomas Moran

Responses to events:
"... a warm and nurturing atmosphere ..."
"... a cross-section of talent ..."
"... a diversity of voices ..."
"Consistent with its commitment to public service, Molloy College, a wonderful venue, showcases and nurtures our local poets and writers."
"These readings are inspiring and entertaining and open up poetry to the general public."
"Without poetry, so much is denied to a community, although it may not always be missed. Events like these prevent that loss of soul."
"Long may these gatherings prevail!"



I was the wild tree
that grows in sidewalk cracks,
braving life that will not yield:
I would not yield.
I was golden yellow light,
an intensity tolerated because the days are long
and the nights are balmy
and the breeze is soft on naked skin.
Summer presses but does not push.
I was the storm that quick-darkens
and flashes light
and rolls its sound across the sky,
breaking solid blocks of heat
to pebble drops
on windowpanes.
I was calico,
a madness of color
that makes people smile.

I was youth,
merely a mood
that changed.

The tree was pulled up by the roots,
the street repaved.
Golden yellow light faded
to autumnal dusk.
The storm aged, white and silent
and cold.
And the calico was cut
to a pattern.

I remember the fireflies
I used to catch and bottle
to own their light,
to save a beauty
that gasped and died.

And only now
can I empathize.

(c) Barbara Novack
first publication Avocet

A poem for Jen and Aaron.


All possibility
all possible states
cling together
in quantum superposition.
Traditionally, it is the act
of observation
that forces the particles
to choose
one state
or the other.

The aisle is long
the sides chosen
the particles to meet
at the end point
there to agree
to be
one state
not the other
under watchful eyes.

We have existed
in ambiguous states
a wave function where
all possible histories
all possible futures
all possible presents
have hovered together
and now
we are colliding with rock-solid
a world that will
define us

All it takes, they say,
to collapse the wave
is a tiny disturbance
and the coherence of possibility
becomes unglued.

All it takes
is a tiny disturbance.

They say otherwise
we could possibly exist
as simultaneously
dead and alive

The watchful eyes
could decide it,
all it really takes
is that tiny

I walk down the aisle
your eyes holding mine
your smile matching mine
till your hand is holding mine

and we choose
one state
over the other.

(c) copyright Barbara Novack
first publication Slant

On the moments before sleep.


Things are only different
from what they are
in that twilight
before sleep
when possibilities rise
and reality drifts
It is not sleep yet
where dreams attach meaning
to random brain impulses,
a fireworks display of neurons,
but sparks fly upward,
catching the blue-gray haze
smoke smudging
the twilight sky.
It is not sleep yet, but
it is dreaming
and I hear words
and see images
and attach meanings
I prefer
to the sparks
that could never
be fire.

(c) Barbara Novack
first publication Nassau Review

On unexpected outcomes and possibility


In the emptiness of space
an astronaut threw a boomerang
a continuing journey into the void
into the vastness
lost in time and space.

Into our emptiness
your words thrown out
into the void
of neverending

The boomerang came back.
No one knows why.

There is a point
where time and space

You stand at the door
hand on the knob
looking back.

(c) Barbara Novack
first publication Istanbul Literary Review

This poem serves as the thematic introduction to Rehabilitation Medicine and Thermography (Impress Publications, 2008) by Drs. Mathew H. M. Lee and Jeffrey M. Cohen, which explores the many applications of thermography (heat pictures) in both science and art. Drs. Lee and Cohen use thermography in their pain research, with Dr. Lee's work focusing on acupuncture's effects on pain. His thermography pictures have been exhibited in art galleries and are in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum.


Infrared images
red hot to cool blue
swirled in life colors' terrain
energy visible.

Pain alters the image.
Pain alters the being.
Temperatures change:
Paths of pain
made visible.

In the scientific search
pictures are taken
of heat and cold
showing places full glowing,
pulsing with red-orange-yellow warmth and
places where the life force circulates less,
cooling to blues.

There is Design
and there is design.
It is all in
how you look at it.
In the search for pain
the scientist plans and studies,
makes a model and a machine,
takes heat pictures of patients.
And he sees
in his search
and beauty:
we are art by Design
but rarely
is the mysterious design

And even more rarely
does the scientist have
an artist's eye.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Rehabilitation Medicine and Thermography

The following two poems were included in the anthology Songs of Seasoned Women, edited by Patti Tana (Quadrasoul, 2007).


The painters come
with their cans and brushes and rollers
to cover the lost colors
years have resolved to a wistful shadow
of what might have been.

I selected whites this time,
shades of purity,
searching for my truth
in the tenuousness
of untrammeled snow
in its moment in
the melting sun.

The painters come
and my artifacts huddle together
beneath splattered dropcloths
and I wonder who
did a room in midnight blue
and who in sharp citrus yellow
and who in peachy pink.
I wonder at the hope behind
the rainbow colors.

I huddle with the artifacts
in a dark void of silence,
lacking the passion of midnight blue,
citrus yellow, peachy pink.

They tell me, these painters,
it will be bold
when it is done.
I know
it is only
the blank page
to be won.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication The Cape Rock
1/​4/​09 The New York Times: "Region's Poets Convey a Sense of Place" by Tina Kelley


The glacier recedes,
leaving tides high
and dangerous
and striations on the land,

We have not spoken to each other
these many weeks,
occupying accompanying space,
repelling like the same-charged polarity
we were.
Sparks no longer flew.
It was the cold time,
winter of the soul,
all soft sentiment turned hard
and breakable,
easy to shatter.
And we stood on that thin sheet of slippery surface,
each convinced of walking-on-water rectitude
while our weight fissured the glaze.
We stood our sinking ground

I do not know what changed our minds.
Perhaps it was not quite being able to remember
what started it
this time.
Perhaps it was just becoming too easy
to slither past the other.
Perhaps it was the mirrors
we'd turned to the wall.

This morning I made your coffee
and buttered your toast.
This morning your shower towel
wasn't on the bathroom floor.
This morning we saw our reflection
in each other.

Perhaps it was the fear
of what we were sliding into
that pulled us back.

And the glacier recedes,
leaving tides high
and dangerous
and striations on the land,

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Nassau Review

This poem received the Editor's Special Recognition Award as best poem in the 2007 In Other Words poetry anthology.


Today everything in the regrigerator froze.
The gallon of milk was a white ice block,
the soda cans bulged ready to pop,
pregnant with the moment.
It is April, spring, when life bursts open;
it is daylight savings time, when days stretch
like a rubber band
to hold all the growing things and expand,
pushing night into its dark corner
of dustballs and thoughts of the not-done.
And yet,
the food is frozen,
the nourishment unconsumable.
There is nothing in the waste of winter held,
refusing to yield.
The orange shattered when I dropped it.
The eggs were solid. I shook them to be sure.
I do not know if freezing spoils them.
But other eggs are frozen
later to be mixed
to yield, perhaps,
other pregnant moments.
I stare at the glaciated abundance
and wonder
if I have been reminded, this April,
of the cruelty.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Long Island Quarterly

This poem was a winner in the 2007 Long Island Poetry Collective/​Xanadu poetry contest. It appeared in the 2007 issue of Xanadu.


We are
skin shell and bone
structured to articulate
and retain shape,
holding all the parts
in place;
this dwells in darkness
I cannot know.
And we are
sparks flying upward
synapses firing
electrons jumping,
and Edison creates incandescence
and Einstein's e
flies light speed relatives
and we are
lanterns and lighthouses
and could be
Christmas trees
if we but
allowed the joy.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Xanadu

A poem about why we write. It is used in poetry classes by Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr, and in literature classes by Dr. Jeffry Massey of Molloy College.


We need to tell stories,
to join the fragments of existence
and make the chaos coherent;
we need to name
the flowers, trees, birds,
to note differences, make distinctions
to make separate.
Divergent needs
swirling a whirlpool of darkness
that sucks meaning to a black hole core
of oblivion.
But another need
like a seed
takes root in this most uncommon ground;
the harshest season
bears its fruit.
In defense against
anguish and anarchy,
we gather
around the fire, in the light,
keeping darkness at our backs,
keeping chaos at bay,
telling stories
and giving it all
our name.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first published in Nassau Review


I stand in the shower
wash my hair
two three four times
run the soft cream soap suds
over hill and valley
a lunar terrain
alien and apart
and devoid of life.
"One small step for man,"
the first explorer said.
"Magnificent desolation,"
the second added.
They traveled over her surfaces,
these explorers,
and never knew her at all.
Never knew if moisture
would tamp down the dust
seep to the center
and soften the soul.
Never knew if those
hills and valleys
could bear the weight
of more
than their boots.
That knowledge
was not
their intention.
She was just
one small step for man and
magnificent desolation
to explore.

I feel beaded droplets dripping
in the valley
where my heart beats.
If they had rested there
they might have returned
with more
than stones.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Oberon

The editors of Nassau Review, commenting on the universality of the experience described in it, selected this poem immediately and unanimously from over 3000 world-wide submissions.


Tearing a brown paper bag
smooth, thick, dense
I hear a rattle as it bends in my grip
and a dull sound as it shreds,
releasing a memory redolent of
forest-fresh wood pulp
and September crayons
and bleach-clean new notebooks.

In the evening
bathed in golden incandescent light
the brown paper bags from the grocery store
were measured on the kitchen table against the open texts
and carefully cut
and smoothly folded down on the long inside
and over the cover edges,
a pocket miraculously appearing
into which the text neatly slipped

until all the schoolbooks sat
in their matching brown covers
with their subjects neatly lettered on the front:
arithmetic, spelling,
social studies, English--
an orderly world
of smooth sameness
carefully divided.

Now the supermarket bags are plastic
and grocery stores are extinct
and the children's books have stretchy covers
with Pokemon or Spider-Man,
or all things sports or Disney,
store bought, prefab and flexible reflections
of their time.

As perhaps ours were, too.

It was the '50s, after all,
that orderly world
Eisenhower and brown paper bags . . .
and Elvis on the horizon
to change it all.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Nassau Review

On the big joys in small poems.


The virtues of a short poem
in its rainwashed clarity.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Creations Magazine

A poem about what we value.


When I was a child,
deer came down
to my aunt's kitchen window.
Now from her kitchen window
I see other kitchen windows.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Creations Magazine

A memory poem.


The damp smell of earth at night
and woods so close,
pine and crisp country air,
and the gravel crunches beneath our feet
as we walk to the house,
white shingle with green trim,
from the matching garage
across the path that leads
down the hill and around the house,
down past the well house fortress
defended so many times
from attacking snowballers,
down to the garden
where mown grass was piled high
and we dove into its sweetness
and into the orchard
where we climbed the trees
and picked the apples
that made the jellies, jams and pies.

The lightbulb on the porch
in its white ceramic fixture
casts a warm and golden glow
on this frosty November night,
welcoming the children in
from the cold.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Nassau Review

The editors of the Nassau Review selected this poem unanimously from over 2000 submissions.


Leaves fall hard and shatter,
their colors preserved
like Tiffany glass.
You lie among them, stricken, shattered
broken on the season dream of spring.
"I thought you were the one," you cry.
"I thought you were the one."
I hoped you would be; my unspoken reply.
But I accept the not of it;
you whine.
Then you scramble to your feet, brushing shards away,
straighten to your height
and prevaricate, saving face.
"I never said what I said, never
thought what I thought, never
dreamed what I dreamed."
Or words very similar.
It is sad.
As if I don't remember you saying, "I love you."
You want to erase your error, and
I understand.

I didn't want to hurt you, but I had to.
There is no other way
to tell someone
the season is fall,
the future is barren and cold,
and the leaves are falling and shattering
like Tiffany glass.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Nassau Review

A poem about lost opportunity.


Scattered among the family, like leaves fallen
from the tree,
images in black and white
declare: I am.
Unlike the recent color photos
fading to nonexistence
like a dream,
these remain.
They are reality,
sharp and clear.
But who are these people
so staunch and proud,
dressed in their finest clothes
and posed so stiffly for their permanence?
And who are the others
at their ease?
They smile for the camera
that knew them
on front porches and stoops,
in living rooms and kitchens,
places that were home
There are no names or dates or places
written on the backs
of these family photographs.
These people trusted memory
for their immortality.
And now no one can remember
who they were.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication The Cape Rock

Poems with a bit of magic.

(On the Southern State Parkway)

On the tightly curving parkway, I
dizzy with speed
tense with route newness
exits and merges,
suddenly see a swirl
of giddy rose petals
floating from a car up ahead.
They dapple the roadway,
christen my car
and fill me
with blessed mystery.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Long Island Expressions
1/​4/​09 The New York Times: "Region's Poets Convey a Sense of Place" by Tina Kelley


Gray cocoon sky
Chopin on the radio
snowflakes on the windshield
I warm and cozy
in my car
navigating the road's
curves and bends.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication North Shore Woman's Newspaper


The click of the camera
caught my father unawares.
He was pointing, his arm
obscuring his face.
It is a version of my father
before I knew him,
before he was my father.
He sits on a rock outcropping
above the trees
somewhere in the country
of his time
and points
to a distant place
a distant time
he saw
and I knew.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Tapestries

Portland Branch, National League of American PEN Women Honorable Mention for "The Rose," a poem about a remarkable lush flower blooming quite proudly in November.

(at the Sacred Hearts
of Jesus and Mary,
East 33rd Street, New York City

Against a black railing
in the November chill
a perfect rose, blood red
and grinning in the sunshine,
The wrought iron railing
leads to the red brick rectory,
but the rose leads
to heaven.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Avocet

First Place Poetry Honors for "September," a reminiscence capturing a quintessential moment with my father, "Chekhov, For Beginners," a poem about how we become who we are, and "Billet Doux," a poem that shows love notes come in many forms.


The pear tree in the neighbor's backyard
drops its crop on the driveway
with hard thumps
like baseballs hitting a mitt.
But the pears roll, uncaught.

Once my father climbed to the top of the garage
where the pear tree branches stretch over the peak
and perched there, straddling it, plucking pears
and tossing them down to me. I
caught each neatly,
brown-green balls of sweetness, small and firm,
slapping into my cupped palms
and deposited in a large paper bag at my feet.
The pluck, the toss, the catch, the drop:
we had a good rhythm that sunny September afternoon.
And when the bag was finally full and the game ended,
my father lit his pipe, set it at a jaunty angle,
and sat secure and serene
up high against the bluest sky.

The pear tree in the neighbor's backyard
drops its crop on the driveway
with hard thumps:
the pears roll, uncaught.

I stand at the kitchen window
and stare out at the branches
so high against
the emptiest sky.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Nassau Review


Chekhov said
throw out the first three pages;
it takes that long
to get to the beginning.

And I may say
put aside the first three decades
sweep away their debris
cast off versions of the self
that should have molted
like early outgrown skins.
Much was misunderstood,
The guidebook for those places
has been reprinted,
the new edition totally revised.
History, after all,
is just memory compromised,
smoothed out,
its sags stretched to cover the chasms
of existence.

So put them away
in the safe place
where the fading photos stay
and know
it took all that
to get to
the beginning.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Nassau Review


When I got down to
the breakfast table
this morning,
I smelled the sweet soap
of your shaving cream.
I sat in your chair,
drank from your cup.
You were gone,
as our night,
but you lingered,
a sweet surprise,
like a love note left
for me.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Nassau Review

"The Poetry Reading," editors' unanimous choice, was selected from over 2000 submissions.


with words
with meaning,
it's all a toy
for these baby boys
who pretend to know
how the world
With adolescent pretension
and post-acne angst
and their 50's Beat black turtlenecks,
the pose
grows old
as they will
they will learn
to smile.

Copyright (c) Barbara Novack
first publication Nassau Review

J.W. Valentine (JB Stillwater)
Something Like Life (JB Stillwater)
On a Sea of Sighs (Michael Gaily Books)
A Rainbow in the Sand (Michael Gaily Books)
Still Life (Michael Gaily Books)

"In Our Midst: Terror, Trauma, Triumph," an exhibit of photography, art and poetry, Molloy College Art Gallery, Rockville Centre, NY, March 22-April 19, 2002

site updated August 5, 2015