“New Frontiers” & Other Poems: Trailblazing with Estelle Kraemer

Estelle  Kraemer  never  dreamed  of  stepping  on  her  older  siblings’  literary toes. Her sister Berdie, in her day, had been a successful women’s magazine  writer  and  local  poet  laureate.  Her  brother  Morrie  worked  his  way up from cub reporter at the Newark Ledger to editor for the New York Tribune  and  Daily  News.  At  age  95,  Estelle  decided  it  was  time  to  bust  loose.

Our  Friday  morning  workshop  at  Seabrook  Village  she  explains:  “wakened something dormant in me, allowed me to think differently, to ‘let it all out.” From 2012 to her death in February, 2016, Estelle wrote every week inside and outside our workshop and—with the help of her family—published an anthology titled Mom, Grandma, Grannie, Great Grandma ‘Stell’s Poems, Stories and Memories each year.

Growing  in  confidence,  she  took  her  show  on  the  road,  reading  at  local coffeehouses with a busload of groupies in tow. No subject frightened her  off.  She  allowed  herself  to  feel  the  full  spectrum  of  human  emotion.


From childlike awe:


As a country girl,
Living outside of the big city
Just the experience of riding in a trolley car
For the first time was a thrill to me.

But the first real ride I truly remember
Took place one Sunday in a car.
The car my mother’s bridge-player friends—
Mr. and Mrs. Furstenburg—owned.

There I was in the passenger front seat.
I remember Mr. Furstenburg asking me
“Why are you so quiet?”

How could I explain
That I was so in awe
Just seeing what I was seeing
What I had never seen before.

Even now,
on occasion,
I still remain silent
Without the need
for the spoken word.

© Estelle Kraemer

To grown-up sorrow:



Like Issac Newton’s theory,
Gravity, weight, the heaviest
falls to the bottom.
Much of my past grieving is
at the bottom of that glass.
there is still room
at the top.
that will fill
that emotional glass.

© Estelle Kraemer

“Shelley’s words give me courage to write my thoughts and memories. I am truly enjoying each Friday morning at ten-thirty.” –Estelle’s 2012-2013 Anthology


Poetry became, for Estelle, a vessel in which to pour out those joys and  losses,  hold  them  to  the  light,  and  savor  them—in  all  their  bitter  sweetness—more fully.

Through  it  all,  she  retained  her  sharp  mind.  kept  her  youthful  playfulness. Like the genie in the bottle, ever present was that bit of mischief  in  her  eye.  I  understand  from  her  son  Ken  and  daughter-­‐in-­‐law  Doris, Estelle was playing poker with her grandchildren on the day she died. They tell me she pulled a royal flush.

Take a moment to enjoy that joie-­‐de-­‐vivre in the poems that follow:


by Estelle Kraemer

“What a solemn-­‐looking broad!” Those were the words
my new “beau” wrote
on my high school yearbook picture. That was when I began to live.
No more school but a new environment,
new friends, and a new me.
All different than the way it had been. I was discovering “me,”
breaking out of my shell,
gaining confidence,
learning about life,
expressing myself.
What a joy—
leading to a life of
memories and happiness.

© Estelle Kraemer


(inspired by Vermeer’s painting)
by Estelle Kramer

Oh, what is that sound from outside the window? Music? Knocking?
Isn’t that the fellow who followed me home yesterday? What does he want? To woo me?
I admit: he’s not only cute but nice,
but what would my parents say?
Should I invite him in?
How will he know I see him?

Oh, I know what I should do.
I’ll pour this pitcher of water over his head.

© Estelle Kraemer


by Estelle Kraemer

Act my age—why? I see no reason to. I don’t want to be remembered
as a rocking chair grandma,
but I have to know my limits.

There was a time I’d sit on the floor
to play with my grandchildren,
but now, when I try to get down,
I wonder how I’ll get up.

Are children more active today,
having more activities?
It seems to me they would rather run
than sit and read a book.

A few years ago, I learned to jitterbug
so I could have fun, too.
But now, when I move my feet,
I quickly lose my breath.

I am learning to accept these things
as I get older—
my family is, too.
So hopefully they don’t expect me
to do the things I used to do.

Before long I suppose I’ll be
the grandma in the rocking chair.
If I could only figure out
how to knit.

© Estelle Kraemer