Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday Muse: New Missouri Poet Laureate

The imagination has many different ways of creating poetry.*
~ Aliki Barnstone

Missouri has a new Poet Laureate, Aliki Barnstone, who also is the first woman to be named to the position. Barnstone's two-year appointment was announced June 30. She succeeds William Trowbridge, who has been in the post since 2012.

For information on the Poet Laureate post, which is honorary, see my July 1, 2010, profile of David Clewell.

As Poet Laureate, Barnstone will promote poetry in schools, especially those serving children and teens, and to civic groups and communities throughout the state.

* * * * *

I hope to find ways to celebrate our diversity
and promote healing through poetry.**

A published poet by the age of 12, Aliki Barnstone has enjoyed a long and successful writing career. Her most recently published collections are the forthcoming Dwelling (Sheep Meadow Press, October 2016), Madly in Love (Carnegie-Mellon Classic Contemporary Poetry Series, 1997; reprint 2014), Bright Body (White Pine Press, 2011), and Dear God, Dear Dr. Heartbreak: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow, 2009, 2010). Her chapbook Winter, with Child (Red Dragonfly Press) was published in 2015.

Barnstone also is the author of Blue Earth (Iris Press, 2004), Wild With It (Sheep Meadow, 2002), and Windows in Providence (Curbstone, 1981). Her debut poetry collection, The Real Tin Flower: Poems About the World at Nine (Crowel-Collier/Macmillan; available through resellers) was published in 1968. Poet Anne Sexton wrote its introduction.

A translator of poetry, Barnstone is the author of The Collected Poems of C.P. Cavafy: A New Translation (W.W. Norton, 1st ed., 2006).

Among Barnstone's critical works are Changing Rapture: Emily Dickinson's Poetic Development (University Press of New England, 3rd ed., 2007) and the essay collection The Calvinist Roots of the Modern Era (University Press of New England, 1997). She provided the introduction and reader notes to Triology by H.D. (New Directions, 1998). In addition, Barnstone is the editor or co-editor of several anthologies: The Shambhala Anthology of Women's Spiritual Poetry (Shambhala, 2002), Voices of Light: Spiritual and Visionary Poems by Women Around the World from Ancient Sumeria to Now (Shambhala, 1999), and A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now (Schocken, 1981; Rev. ed., 1992) .

. . . I think that poetry . . . has to do with union.
It's a spiritual act in a lot of ways, and the basis
of all spirituality is union and love.***

Barnstone's beautifully crafted poetry is replete with evocative imagery; she juxtaposes in the most matter-of-fact way the light and the dark, the natural and the human-made, infusing her poems with a deep sense of passion as well as empathy for what she witnesses. Beauty is everywhere in her work. The cadence of her poems is also notable.

Some of the subjects Barnstone has addressed in her expansive work are sense of place (the Midwest, Manhattan, Las Vegas, Tibet, Greece and other European nations, Mexico, China, elsewhere), motherhood and family, the Holocaust, longing, doubt, love, redemption, destruction, loss, suffering and despair, the environment, the interconnectedness of all things. She writes both in traditional forms and free verse.

Below are excerpts from several of Barnstone's poems:

[. . .]
I like the violet's heart-
shaped leaves in my salad,
shining with beads of oil.
I like to think the soil likes
the clover to fix its nitrogen
and the clover likes to be the grass
Walt Whitman loves, [. . . ]
~ from "Alas"

The Christmas cactus opens like white gulls
diving toward the sea, their red beaks leading. [. . .]

[. . . ]

Fragments of clothing, plastic, or wood
on the water's surface.
24 dead. 9 of them children.
[. . ..]
~ from "Late January Thaw, Refugees, Fragments" at Rattle

The blacktop sleeps. It is the void roaming about
cities, fields, and mountains beneath a woman's wings
that only unfurl on moonless October nights,
that are visible only to the ginger cat's eyes. [. . . .]
~ from "Dark Rumination"  in Dear God, Dear Dr. Heartbreak

Poems and translations by Barnstone have appeared in many literary periodicals, including The American Poetry Review, The Blue Moon Review, Crab Orchard ReviewThe Drunken Boat, Exquisite CorpseThe Georgia Review, Harvard ReviewNew Letters, Painted Bride QuarterlyPleiades, Poetry, Poetry Daily, Poetry InternationalPrairie Schooner, Rattle, Saranac ReviewThe Southern Review, SpillwayTriQuarterly, Verse Daily, and Virginia Quarterly Review.

In addition, Barnstone's work appears in Heartland: A Portfolio of Poems & Prints (Anderson Center); read about the limited-edition collection of broadsides in "Speaking to the Heart" in the Republican Eagle (October 22, 2015) and in the center's Fall/Winter 2015 newsletter (pdf). Some other anthologies with her poetry are The Imaginary Poets (Tupelo Press, 2005), edited by Alan Michael Parker; and Literary Nevada: Writings from the Silver State (University of Nevada Press, 2008), edited by Cheryll Glotfelty. Her essay "'Who Is the Widow's Muse?': A Memoir and Reading of Ruth Stone" appears in The House is Made of Poetry: The Art of Ruth Stone (Southern Illinois University Press, 1996).

Barnstone's spoken-word CD with Frank Haney, who plays acoustic guitar, is titled Wild Wind (2004). (A selection of tracks to listen to is available on CD Baby.)

Barnstone has been a Senior Fulbright Scholar (2006) and the recipient of the Silver Pen Award from Nevada Writers Hall of Fame (2004) and of a poetry fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (1998). Her poetry collection Wild With It was named a National Critics Book Circle Notable Book.

A professor of English in the creative writing program at the University of Missouri at Columbia, Barnstone has taught at a number of other colleges and universities in the United States. She co-founded (with Scott Cairns) Summer Seminars in Greece.

Barnstone's father, Willis Barnstone, is a poet, translator, and critic, as is her brother, Tony Barnstone. She also is a visual artist, as are her mother and brother Robert.


Photo Courtesy University of Missouri

All Poetry Excerpts © Aliki Barnstone

* Quoted from Interview with Aliki Barnstone at The Druken Boat (See link below.)

**  Quoted from St. Louis-Post Dispatch Article (See link below.)

*** Quoted from "Poetic Prophecy: Aliki Barnstone" in Vox Magazine, April 20, 2014

Jane Henderson, "Gov. Nixon Appoints Aliki Barnston as New Missouri Poet Laureate", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 30, 2016

Stephanie Sandoval, "MU Professor Named Poet Laureate of Missouri", Missourian, June 30, 2016

Aliki Barnstone Poems Online: "Sometimes the Urge to Live" in Los Angeles Times; "Late January Thaw, Refugees, Fragments", at Rattle (Poets Respond); "Take a Deep Breath" at Introduction to Aliki Barnstone Website; "The Blue House", "Day Breaks on Andros, 1944", and "Red Picnic, 1946", Ekphrastic Poems, All at Aliki Barnstone Website; "Atlas", "Take a Deep Breath", "With God in the Morning", All at St. Julian Press; "Childhoods", "In the Basement of the Body", and "Questions on Serifos", All at The Drunken Boat; "I Take the Staten Island Ferry to Meet You in the City" and "My Ghost Looks for You", Both at The Blue Moon Review; "Poetry Game", "Holy Friday", "Gethsemane Psalm", "A Little More Mindful", "Windows on the Past", "Purple Crocuses", "Weeds", "Greek Easter", "Clean Monday", "Days of 1964 in Bloomington, Indiana", and "Madly in Love", All at Aliki Barnstone Blog; "You Pray to Rain Falling on the Desert", "Ephemeral Ethereal", "My Friend Steve Asks If I Believe in the Afterlife", "Emily Dickinson in Las Vegas", "On the Eastern Seaboard with Diane DiPrima", and "Ode to My Hair Stylist", All at Poets USA; "Elegy in the Second Person" and "When We Were Girls in Goshen", Both at Painted Bride Quarterly; "Guess What?", "I Don't Grow Wings, I Drive My Car", "A Las Vegas Dust Storm", "The Lights of Las Vegas", "You Wake in the Shaded Room", "On the Eastern Seaboard with Diane DiPrima", "The Storm", "Emily Dickinson in Las Vegas", "In the Optometrist's Waiting Room", "Elegy for a Lover of Horses", "You Hate Windchimes—", "A Body Politic", "Photo Op", "Taking a Deep Breath", "Close to Death", "When I Think of the Hand", "Days of 2003", "A Field of War", and "Freeway Love Poem", All at The Druken Boat (also see the Eva Poems: "The Blue House", "The Destruction of the Jewish Graveyard, Thessaloniki, 1942", "A Yellow House in Thessaloniki, 1943", "Day Breaks on Andros, 1944", "Island Elegy", "Red Picnic, 1946", and "1949"); "Children's Literature" at Virginia Quarterly Review; Eva's Voice: "market song", "The Blue House", "The Destruction of the Jewish Graveyard, Thessaloniki, 1942", "A Yellow House in Thessaloniki, 1943", "Day Breaks on Andros, 1944", "Island Elegy", "Red Picnic, 1946", "1949", "Dark Rumination", All at Mediterranean Poetry; "Alas" at Vox Magazine; "My Greek Grandmother's Hunger" at Project Muse; "In the Workshop" at Crab Orchard Review (pdf; scroll to page 6); "Sadness" at New England Review; "Rowing on Lake Mendota" at Verse Daily; "Anger" at Slate

Some of Barnstone's translations of C.P. Cavafy poems can be found in the Virginia Quarterly Review Online ("For the Shop", "Meaning", "When the Watchman Saw the Light", and "January, 1904") and at The Blue Moon Review ("The Afternoon Sun" and "If Truly Dead").

Changing Rapture on GoogleBooks

Aliki Barnstone Website

Aliki Barnstone Blog

Aliki Barnstone on FaceBook and Twitter

Dennis Morton, "An Interview with Poet Aliki Barnstone", Poetry Santa Cruz, 2002

Donna Baer Stein, Conversation with Aliki Barnstone, Episode 48, Tiferet Journal, August 12, 2014 (BlogTalk Radio Broadcast) (A transcript is available with the audio. Barnstone reads her poems "You Pray to Rain Falling in the Desert" and "A Laugh with the Bees".)

Brad Leithauser, "Modern Greek", Review of The Collected Poems of C.P. Cavafy by Aliki Barnstone", The New York Times, March 26, 2006

University of Dubuque Poet-in-Residence Reading Series: "Poet-in-Residence: Aliki Barnstone and Monica Hand", April 8, 2013 (Video)

Carnegie-Mellon University Press

Curbstone Books (Northwestern University Press)

Iris Press

Iris Press Page for Blue Earth


New Directions

New Directions Page for H.D.'s Trilogy

Red Dragonfly Press

Shambhala Publications 

Shambhala Page for The Shambhala Anthology of Women's Spiritual Poetry

Sheep Meadow Press

Schocken (Knopf Doubleday)

Schocken Page for A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now: Selections from the World Over

Southern Illinois University Press

Tupelo Press

University Press of New England (UPNE)

UPNE Page for Changing Rapture

W.W. Norton

White Pine Press

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