The Boxer of Quirinal Is Here!

July 5, 2023
Photo of John Barr, a man, holding his book, The Boxer of Quirinal, in front of his chest

June 20th marked the official launch of my new book, The Boxer of Quirinal. The poems, written over ten years, explore challenges that all animals – from majestic herons to humble inchworms – face in their struggle to survive. But humanity must confront an additional obstacle: the eternal presence of war. So how do we live with that?

How to Recognize a Poet

June 28, 2023

To be a poet is to be attached to life by a different set of hooks.

An Homage to Emily

June 14, 2023

Emily Dickinson’s example permits all “Nobodies” to believe in their own work in spite of the world’s neglect. And I say, bless her for that.

The Importance of Metaphor

May 31, 2023
John Barr signinga book in 1991

Poetry is a manifestation of the human urge to make sense of chaos, to find unity and symmetry in external reality.

Form is Hunger

May 11, 2023
John pointing to a projection of his new book! (Photo taken by a family member.)

Thoughts about poetic form.

How to Give a Successful Poetry Reading

May 10, 2023
John Barr signinga book in 1991

Can you recall ever giving a poetry reading that might have gone better, or might better not have happened at all? It happens to all of us. Even marquee poets can remember the reading where no one came.

What Form Can Do for a Poem

April 28, 2023
John pointing to a picture

If poetry is a matter of sounds, then sound must be the basic unit of form. Putting it another way, what do assonance, alliteration, rhyme, meter, rhythm – all of the tools in the toolbox used for constructing form in poetry – have in common? All of them, in their different ways, create recognizable patterns […]

Formal Poetry… Really?

April 13, 2023
John pointing to a picture

If the history of Western literature were compressed into a single day, Homer would declaim the opening lines of The Iliad on the stroke of midnight; Dante would climb out of Hell at 6 pm; Chaucer would ride for Canterbury at 7; Shakespeare and Milton would follow them across life’s stage two hours after that. These and […]

Sound and Sense in a Poem — Part 2

April 13, 2023

On a snowy January day, years ago, I was looking for a sales slip in order to exchange a Christmas gift. As I sorted through the mess on my desk (the clutter in my study having reached Mephistophelian proportions), there was a thought in the front of my mind, that I had seen the slip […]

Sound and Sense in a Poem — Part 1

March 1, 2023
Sound and Sense in a Poem — Part 1

Speech is as natural to human kind as breathing. We inhale, and speech becomes potential, becomes a possible outcome. We exhale. The charge of air, mined of its oxygen, enters an Aeolian wind tunnel. The throat unseals and partakes. Sounding over the harp of the vocal cords, modified by tongue and teeth and lips, the […]

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Iron’s Keeping is a story in poems that tells of my coming of age as a U.S. Navy officer by going to sea in a voyage that took me around the world. It is of the few published collections of poems about the Naval experience in the Vietnam War.