This first collection from award-winning poet Rebecca Baggett moves through the arc of a life, with a focus on the landscape of her childhood on the North Carolina coast and the natural world she explores as an adult. The young child's delight in language matures to contemplate what language, myth, and art can teach us about inevitable loss. Woven into the narrative, the title character—a nomadic woman who lives without money—appears with her begging bowl, a figure from myth, a touchstone for what is everlasting.
Rebecca Baggett is the author of four chapbook collections, two of them prize-winners. The Woman Who Lives Without Money, winner of the Terry J. Cox Poetry Award, is her first full-length collection. A native of North Carolina, she has lived for most of her adult life in Athens, GA, where she worked as an academic advisor at the University of Georgia’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. In retirement, she stewards Little Free Library #110420, works at adding native habitat to her garden, and heaps stacks of to-read books all over the house. She is a fan of indie bookshops, libraries, theatre, farmers markets, word games, her faint recollections of travel, and her two-year-old grandson, who reconciles her to staying home.
This collection is so sensory and so full of lively detail that it’s easy to miss how elegiac it is. There’s great loss here—of childhood innocence and security, of home and family. In the haunting sequence of prose poems that give the book its title, the homeless ‘woman who lives without money’ literally loses (or gives up) everything. But loss is less a subject for grief than a path toward greater understanding. In ‘Indistinct,’ the speaker who ‘longed for perfect sight’ comes at last to embrace the ‘soft, mysterious,/and imperfectible world.’ And although loss and tragedy confront us every day, ‘Testimony’ concludes that ‘anyone who notices the world/ must want to save it.’ Throughout this collection, Rebecca Baggett saves the world over and over again.Eric Nelson, author of Terrestrials and Horse Not Zebra
Rebecca Baggett’s The Woman Who Lived Without Money, in its precision of image and sensitive insight, illuminates the joys and sorrows of the quotidian: the grandmother who marvels that the poet writes about ‘people before they died’; the frighteningly abusive father; the honeymooners shivering in their ‘layered long johns’; the dangerously cavalier teens, ‘fools cupped in God’s hands,’ out late in a fast car; and, of course, the vicissitudes of the title character who finally leaves everything, even ‘her name, the syllables of which dragged at her heels for miles.’ Rebecca Baggett’s fine work should be celebrated by all who love language and what it can do to effect profound human communion.Sarah Gordon, author of Distances and The Lost Thing (poetry) and Flannery O’Connor: The Obedient Imagination and A Literary Guide to Flannery O’Connor’s Georgia
When I was editor of Atlanta Review, I always brightened up when I saw new work from Rebecca Baggett. I knew that every poem would be a delight, and one or two would just blow me away. Now the whole world can share in this discovery. What strikes me most about this book is its redemptive quality. In this warmly human, resilient poetry, even the hollow left by grief becomes the nest of new and singing life.Dan Veach, editor emeritus of Atlanta Review, author of Lunchboxes and Elephant Water