Dante in China

In John Barr’s poems, the ancient masters encounter the modern world. Dante on a beach in China beholds the Inferno: “Flaring well gas night and day, / towers rise as if to say, / Pollution can be beautiful.” Bach’s final fugue informs all of nature. Villon is admonished by an aging courtesan. Aristotle finds “Demagogues are the insects of politics. / Like water beetles they stay afl oat / on surface tension, they taxi on iridescence.” And his afterlife: “When three-headed Cerberus greeted him / Socrates replied: I won’t need / an attack dog, thank you. I married one.”

“W. H. Auden once longed for the return of a ‘civic poetry,’ by which he meant two things: a poetry whose subjects would be interesting to people who had no primary investment in the art, and a poetry that managed to entertain and instruct at the same time. How happy Auden might have been with this inventive, various, and large-spirited book by John Barr! I hope it finds the wide audience it certainly deserves.”—Christian Wiman, author of Once in the West, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award

“The book’s powerfully imagined final poem, ‘Aristotle’s Will,’ is like nothing in our poetry. . . . It is a wonderful work.”—Ilya Kaminsky, co-editor of The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry

“John Barr’s poems stake out the intersection of wit, philosophy, grace, shadow, and an unabridged dictionary. And they travel far.”—Sarah Lindsay, author of Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower


John Barr

Publication Date: July 10, 2018

Genre/Imprint: Poetry, Red Hen Press

$18.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 978-7-59709-041-4

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