Plucked From Memory

July 15, 2015

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Surely, some of you have paged through an old book and come upon a dried flower, fragile as a spider web, the colors faded. Here’s a fine poem about pressing flowers by Chelsea Woodard of New Hampshire, from her book Vellum.

The Flower Press

It was the sort of thing given to little girls:
sturdy and small, round edged, wooden and light.
I stalked the pasture’s rough and waist-high grass
for worthy specimens: the belle amid the mass,
the star shaming the clouds of slighter,
ordinary blooms. The asters curled

inside my sweat-damp palms, as if in sleep. Crushed
in the parlor’s stifling heat, I pried
each shrinking petal back, and turned the screws.
But flowers bear no ugly bruise,
and even now fall from the brittle page, dried
prettily, plucked from memory’s hush.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2014 by Chelsea Woodard, “The Flower Press,” from Vellum, (Able Muse Press, 2014). Poem reprinted by permission of Chelsea Woodard and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 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. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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  1. Lovely and delicate.. I have such fond memories of pressing flowers and leaves in childhood. But we didn't use presses, just waxed paper and heavy books, as I recall. ..
    And then again, in some nature study classes in college we pressed wildflowers and leaves, with identification labels.

  2. Rita--Yes, I remember pressing flowers in books, too. I think it would be cool to press some, and then sketch and label them.

  3. Kathy - such a lovely poem. I have always wanted a flower press but have used old heavy books instead. Sometimes I forget that I have pressed something and when I clean off the shelf and open the book - there they are autumn leaves and Queen Anne's lace, larkspur and bachelor buttons, etc. So maybe I won't worry about that flower press...more fun to be surprised when opening a page and there they are. Hope you have a wonderful week friend.

  4. Debbie--It would be such a lovely surprise to find those pressed flowers in books, better than pulling them out of a flower press. (A little secret: the press in the photo is mine, but I have never used it. I've always used books, too!)