American Life in Poetry: Column 126

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

The British writer Virginia Woolf wrote about the pleasures of having a room of one’s own. Here the Vermont poet Karin Gottshall shows us her own sort of private place.

The Raspberry Room

It was solid hedge, loops of bramble and thorny   
as it had to be with its berries thick as bumblebees.   
It drew blood just to get there, but I was queen   
of that place, at ten, though the berries shook like fists   
in the wind, daring anyone to come in.  I was trying   
so hard to love this world—real rooms too big and full   
of worry to comfortably inhabit—but believing I was born
to live in that cloistered green bower: the raspberry patch   
in the back acre of my grandparents’ orchard.  I was cross-   
stitched and beaded by its fat, dollmaker’s needles.  The effort   
of sliding under the heavy, spiked tangles that tore   
my clothes and smeared me with juice was rewarded   
with space, wholly mine, a kind of room out of   
the crush of the bushes with a canopy of raspberry   
dagger-leaves and a syrup of sun and birdsong.   
Hours would pass in the loud buzz of it, blood   
made it mine—the adventure of that red sting singing   
down my calves, the place the scratches brought me to:   
just space enough for a girl to lie down.   


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2007 by Karin Gottshall. Reprinted from “Crocus,” by Karin Gottshall, published by Fordham University Press, 2007, with permission of the author and publisher. First printed in “Black Warrior Review.” Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.