September 2024 from Press 53

Midlife Calculus

Britt Kaufmann set out to take calculus for the first time at age 47 so she could cross it off her bucket list. She did not expect it to lead to her first full-length collection of poetry: Midlife Calculus. Calculus is the study of how things change, so it’s a fitting title for poems about midlife, about learning something difficult and new, and the state of public education post pandemic. These poems, often short, bear witness to the struggles of both teachers and students. And, like any woman’s romp through perimenopause, the mood and tone vary wildly, but always with a call to reflect and find moments of peace and purpose, to “work literal equations / and maybe wonders, / figure the balance between expectations / and grace.” 

In this collection: 


Kaufmann plays with and infuses mathematical ideas into her poems in ways that are by turns clever, thought-provoking, sobering, and humorous. She rotates a familiar scene on its axis just slightly so that the everyday becomes profound. 

Deirdre Longacher Smeltzer, PhD in Mathematics and co-author of Methods for Euclidean Geometry 

Poetry’s work of aiding our survival has never been more essential than it is now. Britt Kaufmann’s Midlife Calculus performs this function in startling and refreshing ways, using the language of mathematics to investigate subjects such as the pandemic, the U.S.’s failing educational system, and school shootings while refusing despair, showing readers that the search for a sense of peace is not in vain. 

Daniel Shank Cruz, poet and author of Queering Mennonite Literature and Ethics for Apocalyptic Times 

If you were to graph Britt Kaufmann's Midlife Calculus, you'd get a sine curve going convex and concave from comfort to danger and back again, approaching infinity. A thought-provoking poetry collection. Britt could teach My Dear Aunt Sally the order of operations for writing lyrically about math.

Jessy Randall, poet and author of Mathematics for Ladies: Poems on Women in Science and The Path of Most Resistance: More Poems on Women in Science (spring 2025)


This chapbook of poems, published by Finishing Line Press, loosely chronicles the poets upbringing in a Mennonite community in the midwest and her move, as an adult, to the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Books are available Plott Hound Books, at Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville


Belonging—that word is the best possible title for Britt Kaufmann’s earnest, engaging, affectionate, and wonderfully enjoyable collection of poems.  Be, says the land and the nature that enfolds it.  Longing is what we feel when we gaze upon the land and try to search its meaning.  This tight-knit sheaf is as inviting as an apple pie set to cool on a window sill.

Fred Chappell, former North Carolina Poet Laureate

A lyrical Eve transplanted to mountain country from midwestern "flatlands,"  Britt Kaufmann has put down her roots amidst "kindred spirits of unlike minds"  and found her voice  among "those who didn't want to be found."  These compelling poems with their abundant natural imagery remind us of the  gracious capacity of language to help us claim our home in this world.

Ann Hostetler, author of  Empty Room with Light: Poems and editor of A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry

Britt Kaufmann's Belonging brings the real world of a woman's experience close enough to touch, whether that reality be a child, a quilt, a garden, or what belongs to those underground streams that feed a woman's inner life. Her words call up the things of everyday life and make them last. This poet belongs unapologetically to that moment when joy pushes its way to the surface, like a crocus through snow, never hesitating to praise it and its many gifts, opening her arms wide to welcome its arrival. 

Kathryn Stripling Byer , former North Carolina Poet Laureate

Britt Kaufmann’s poems owe much to her Mennonite heritage in flatland Goshen.  Transplanted to Southern Appalachia, she turns clear eyes on our abandoned tobacco barns, rock-ribbed heights, hardscrabble farms, tough good people.  She sees a simple beauty in our rusticity.  Whimsy, warm wisdom, a mother’s love, a good heart’s aspirations all live in these spare yet intricately woven lines; one hears unheard the four-part a cappella harmony of her Indiana Sundays even as our mountain seasons turn, our rivers rise, our folk speak their highland talk.                                             

Charles F. Price, author of Nor the Battle to the Strong