NC Literary Hall of Fame



That Rain We Needed: Poems by Sam Barbee

Press 53
$14.95, paperback
ISBN: 978-1-941209-40-0
April, 2016
Available from your local bookstore or

"A celebratory set of narratives in its exploration of family and love, Sam Barbee's That Rain We Needed is a many-sided harmony of living words—and worlds—toward an appreciation and joy of the creative life, especially, poetry."
—Shelby Stephenson, North Carolina Poet Laureate and author of Elegies for Small Game

"Sam Barbee delves deeply into the sacred and often volatile terrain of family in his new collection, That Rain We Needed. In one poignant poem after another, he renders the tangles, confusion, the harrowing intimacy and abiding love that tithes us to those we inexplicably cannot live without—'[releasing] all [he is] into wind / free-falling.' It is, indeed, from the soaring vantage of flight that these fine poems gaze in benediction upon the past."
—Joseph Bathanti, former North Carolina Poet Laureate and author of Concertina

"As much as any recent poetry collection I have read, That Rain We Needed speaks for the middle-aged American population as the Baby Boomers stumble toward that dark night, 10,000 a day turning 65 years of age; and these poems straddle the great divide of three generations. Watching the parents die, the children leave home, the marriage molder, and all the while Sam Barbee is a joyful and pragmatic reporter, honoring each overgrown flower bed, or passing ecstatic solstice, making the reader feel as if you had seen these road markers for the first time. This book is filled with observations of earthly delights, a lush garden of plush sentences and hard-won memories. It has taken the poet his whole life to write this book, and thankfully, it shows on every page."
—Keith Flynn, editor of Asheville Poetry Review and author of Colony Collapse Disorder

"That Rain We Needed is one man’s search for his place of true belonging in an imperfect world. Sometimes comical, other times poignant, always willing to be vulnerable—here Sam Barbee unfolds his map for negotiating family and its complicated relationships. Little escapes his keen eye. 'Snagged in the belly of combed clouds / I release all I am into wind,' he says—he who bravely bares his soul to us all."
— Susan Laughter Meyers, author of My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass


I cannot remember the shape
of the moon that particular night
but do recall swelter and how
humidity snapped between my fingers.

Pop Pike’s balding head bobbed
above the Kelvinator, carrying
a distinct astronomy in his face,
bifocals clamped firm like a pair of stars.

Granddad Barbee, never to be outdone,
hoisted boxes. He and my dad bickered,
jousting with hand trucks as
grandmothers chirped in the porch swing.

That June’s family ensemble—
a reliable galaxy of nurses,
and backwoods prophets,
mechanics and clumsy magicians—

all assembled assisting our move,
to a smaller house, porch, kitchen.
Mature water oaks and a tin garage
proved two of its few graces,

but all make up my black and white
constellation of faces in the first place
I knew as home, where I fleshed out grace,
and first debates with solitude were prepared.

Sam Barbee grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, and studied creative writing at UNC-Wilmington. His poems have appeared in numerous publications including The Best of the Asheville Poetry Review, Crucible, The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina, Potato Eyes, Georgia Journal, St. Andrews Review, Main Street Rag, Iodine, and Pembroke Magazine. His first collection of poems, Changes of Venue, was published by Mount Olive Press in 1997. He has been a featured poet on North Carolina Public Radio Station WFDD, and he received the 59th Poet Laureate Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society for his poem “The Blood Watch.” Sam lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with his wife Jan.

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