Shattering my image of “Doc” Carver as an old-timey peanut harvester I learn that not only was he a scientist, an inventor, and an educator but also an accomplished painter who was adept in the arts of needlecraft as well. Say what? These and other unique aspects of Carver’s being are handled with textural loving care in Nelson’s poem-craft. She makes you feel kindred to him.

What I find so moving in both George Washington Carver and Carver: A Life in Poems is realizing how much boldness and power resides in packages of humility. As Nelson writes in “The Wild Garden”:

The homeliest, lowest,
torn out by the roots, poisoned;
the “inferior,” the “weeds”—
They grow despite our will to kill them,
despite our ignorance
of what their use might be.
We refuse to thank them,
but they keep on coming back
with the Creator’s handwritten invitation.

Now you’re ready for a cup of Potentilla tea!

Leslie Reese enjoys writing family stories, poetry, and book reviews. She is on the staff at Literacy Chicago where she also facilitates Reading Against the Odds, a book discussion group for adult learners. Literacy Chicago received an Innovations in Reading prize from the National Book Foundation in 2012 for Reading Against the Odds.