John Barr

John Barr grew up in a rural township outside Chicago. An honors graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School, he served on Navy destroyers for five years, including three tours to Vietnam. His poems have appeared in the New York Times, Poetry, and Flaunt Magazine among many periodicals, and in anthologies published by Bloodaxe Books, National Geographic, and the Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry. He was president of the Poetry Foundation and publisher of Poetry magazine for its first decade. The Boxer of Quirinal is his fifth book of poems to be published with Red Hen Press, and his tenth to be published over the past thirty years.

John Barr sits in a chair

All Books

The Boxer of Quirinal

John Barr

Publication Date: June 20, 2023

$20 Tradepaper

ISBN: 9781636280912

Description:

All animals struggle to survive. In John Barr’s poems, the success of the heron hunting, the albatross breeding, and the inchworm spinning give proof of life. But for us, that struggle includes the eternal presence of war. Does the fall of Rome, the Battle of Shiloh, the Normandy Landings––and today’s wars––give proof of life or only of the struggle?


ADVANCE PRAISE


“John Barr’s collection takes its title from an ancient Greek statue that was unearthed after 2,000 years—a fitting emblem for a poet inspired by the deep connections between past and present, history and nature. Whether he is writing about mushrooms on a forest floor or a Civil War battle, Barr offers pleasures that are seldom found in contemporary poetry: a strong formal imagination and the company of an adventurous mind.”
—Adam Kirsch, author of The Discarded Life

Dante in China

John Barr

Publication Date: July 10, 2018

$18.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-7-59709-041-4

Description:

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

Opcit at Large (Volume Two of The Adventures of Ibn Opcit)

John Barr

Publication Date: January 15, 2013

$14.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-259-3

Description:

In volume two of The Adventures of Ibn Opcit, Opcit at Large, the poet pushes back on his oppressors in three adventures. Like Virgil in the Inferno he visits the afterworld of reincarnation in “The Afterdammit;” he struggles to survive as poet laureate to Africa’s newest President for Life in “Opcit en Afrique;” he orbits earth as “The Last Cosmonaut” on the eve of the fall of the Soviet Union. He comes home with the dignity and strength of one who has survived and prevailed.

Grace (Volume One of The Adventures of Ibn Opcit)

John Barr

Publication Date: January 15, 2013

$14.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-265-4

Description:

Grace, the first volume of the mock epic The Adventures of Ibn Opcit, is the master song of Ibn Opcit, a Caribbean gardener/poet condemned to die by torture. In a series of jailhouse monologues we hear him descant on justice, on creation, on America, on death and on life after death.

The Adventures of Ibn Opcit

John Barr

Publication Date: January 15, 2013

$24.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-273-9

Description:

The Adventures of Ibn Opcit is a two-volume work by John Barr, first president of The Poetry Foundation. Grace, the first volume of this mock epic, is the master song of Ibn Opcit, a Caribbean gardener/poet condemned to die by torture. In a series of jailhouse monologues we hear him descant on justice, on creation, on America, on death and on life after death. In volume two, Opcit at Large, the poet pushes back on his oppressors in three adventures. Like Virgil in the Inferno he visits the afterworld of reincarnation in “The Afterdammit;” he struggles to survive as poet laureate to Africa’s newest President for Life in “Opcit en Afrique;” he orbits earth as “The Last Cosmonaut” on the eve of the fall of the Soviet Union. He comes home with the dignity and strength of one who has survived and prevailed.


Praise for Grace, Volume One of The Adventures of Ibn Opcit:


“The six parts of [Grace] add up to a linguistic tour de force, verbal playfulness reminiscent of the work of James Joyce or Anthony Burgess. Grace is a unique reading experience, guaranteed to add spice to the ‘glum tostada’ of American poetry.”—Library Journal


“John Barr’s Grace is a wonderful surprise. It’s that rarest, rarest, rarest of phenomena, an enjoyable book of contemporary poetry. He’s on to something marvelous. The potential of his new approach is limitless.”—Tom Wolfe

The Hundred Fathom Curve

John Barr

Publication Date: February 1, 2011

$19.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-497-9

Description:

The Hundred Fathom Curve chronicles the search for an American identity from the Vietnam war to 9/11. The poems, drawn from five previous collections and published over 40 years, include Barr’s eye witness accounts as a Navy veteran of Vietnam, and as a New Yorker who was present at 9/11. They explore the boundary of what is human with all that is not, and find things never to be as they seem. They follow the journey from nature into art, and the efforts of the artist to discover what it means to be human.

News

The Poetry of Architecture

A pen. Some paper. A bit of inspiration. A quiet place to think. Of all the things a writer needs, it’s the last one that’s the hardest to come by. That was the challenge posed to New York based architect Eric J. Smith by one of his long-time clients: build a writer’s studio that would […]