The poems in Messenger, written late in life reveal a meditative appreciation of the natural world on her doorstep and a profound questioning of previously held beliefs.

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December 2023








I lift my face to the stars—
to the brilliance of the night sky—

Everything is alive—
with Holy Fire—

Is it starlight on my cheeks—
or tears—

The poems in Messenger, written late in life reveal a meditative appreciation of the natural world on her doorstep, and a profound questioning of previously held beliefs.

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Barbara Fairhead

Barbara Grenfell Fairhead is an artist, writer, poet and lyricist. She was born in the United Kingdom in 1939 and has lived most of her life in South Africa. After her first visit to New Mexico in the early 1990s it became her second home. She made many extended visits over a period of twenty years, staying in her casita close to Black Mesa. Many of her poems and haiku were inspired by that landscape, as well as some of her prose writings, and her trilogy of novels. She lives in Cape Town now.

Her most recent books are Rio Abajo Rio/River Beneath River – a poetically written, post-creation myth and KIN, her collected poems.


Barbara Fairhead's author page

“Barbara Fairhead leaves us in no doubt as to the collective and deeply personal significance of the Messenger as the midwife of the shedding of our final skin. In these raw, uncaged verses, she greets that ancient emissary of death and life with a wild eye… fierce and to the point. She speaks her truth with both reverence and rage. Her poems are both a homecoming and honouring of the seasons of life as if they were within her …’How beautiful the leaves, even in their dying.’ Her words speak to me and for me.” Ian McCallum, author and conservationist

The poems in this book first beautifully breathe into being the time and place of days in a simple garden setting, which Fairhead documents with utter faithfulness to truth and beauty – emphatic about the tensions between them. From there, the reader is launched into the wilder, fiercer, myth-based locale of the poet’s mind, heart, and soul as she confronts her ultimate aloneness. This miraculously allows her to repair and integrate her feral child and adult self, birthing a renewed being, who discovers that “The Unseen Man and Woman of her Soulfulness had been with her— always—” (from ‘It came so gently’) Silke Heiss

Here is a collection that speaks eloquently, beautifully, passionately of a life well lived. It is in its way a distillation of wisdom and insight into all that life throws at us. Eight decades of how to survive with the help of beauty, art, language. Barbara Grenfell is just the guru, the sage, the shaman we so urgently need right now! Julian Roup, UK journalist



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