Barbara Angell was born Barbara Tanner in 1930 in Saginaw, Michigan. Her father, a commercial artist, encouraged her interest in drawing and painting. She attended the Philadelphia College of Art, the Art Student's League in New York City, and Cooper College of Art in Cleveland, Ohio. For a time she made her living as a commercial artist and illustrated several children's books.
Barbara moved to Cleveland in the early 1960s, married and raised her three children there. She continued to paint and draw, and she also began writing poetry. From 1974 to 1978 she was one of the Big Mamas, five women who performed dramatic readings of their own poems. The Big Mamas published two collections of poems, one in 1975 and one in 1977.
Barbara's poems were also published in literary magazines and anthologies, including America in Poetry (Harry M. Abrams, Inc., 1988). In 1978 her first book, Games and Puzzles, was published by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center.
Late in her life, Barbara discovered she also had a gift for teaching. From 1980 until a year before her death, she taught poetry in elementary, junior high, and high schools all over Ohio. She also taught oral history and poetry in Cleveland's Golden Age Centers, encouraging people who had never thought of themselves as writers to tell their own stories. Barbara died in July, 1990 after a long battle with cancer. She spent a good part of the last year of her life polishing the manuscript of The Long Turn Toward Light, and it is her gift to us.
- Meredith Holmes
(from afterword of The Long Turn Toward Light.
1978. CSU Poetry Center)
A Moment Such as This
by Barbara Angell
Picture a room
in the dark.
Here is the room,
night sky glowing red,
a tower beyond the wall
a president's monument
and a flame flickering on someone's tomb.
You say you used to lie in bed
trying to figure out what it was.
Take a moment such as this:
our standing together
wondering, does God see
that little piece of light,
and wondering what is God
in all that emptiness.
Somebody builds a tower,
somebody makes a fire,
to be forgotten.
Looking at a Portrait While Wearing
Blue Jeans and Sneakers
by Barbara Angell
of a woman with careless hair curled over her ears,
long amber beads
and a fur.
You can smell her perfume,
its deep musk heavy with longing or some old knowledge:
Russia, someone deposed,
snow blowing over a long field, an ancient city by a river.
Shell polish on her nails, brocade, thick aromatic coffee, dark red wine,
she has escaped some country with jewels sewn in her dress.
She poses in her fur,
eyelids smoky with shadow, fragrant with jasmine, patchouli, flowers from forgotten meadows.
I want to be that woman
with silk legs, a pearl button
on the strap of her shoe
and a purse with a crystal snap.
I want to be perfect, ready, unknown, waiting for someone in a cafe, waiting for me.