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About this poet

Catherine Barnett was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She studied at Princeton University and at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.

Barnett is the author of Human Hours (Graywolf Press, 2018); The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012), which was the recipient of the 2012 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; and Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004).

Of Barnett's work, April Bernard has noted, "With subtle and cumulative force, The Game of Boxes builds a complex poetic structure in which fundamental questions about motherhood, trust, eroticism, and spiritual meaning are posed and then set into motion in relation to one another. The mind is delighted, the spirit enthralled, by this wonderful book."

Her awards and honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Whiting Writers' Award. She also works as an independent editor and as Writer-in-Residence at the Children's Museum of Manhattan, where she teaches writing to mothers in the shelter system.

Barnett has been the Visiting Poet at Barnard College and teaches at the New School and New York University.


Bibliography

Human Hours (Graywolf Press, 2018)
The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012) 
Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004)

Amor Fati

What do you need? the Quiet Man asked
when I knocked again at his door.

What do you want?
He was closing up.

I don’t know, I said.
Woolf, Anbesol, Baldwin, Keats,

I’ll take anything.
I knew sometimes he slept right there in his shop,

with blankets on the bottom shelf,
history above, Bulletin

of the Atomic Scientists to the left.
Papers littered his desk

and the floor where we lay our heads,
letting the pure products of the shapely mind

inform the equally combustible body.
Who is it who says the closer you are

to an irreversible apocalypse the more fragile
language is?

We slid the dictionaries from the shelves
and opened them to apocalypse,

the word on everyone’s lips.
O lips!—

As if we could ever bid these joys farewell.

From Human Hours. Copyright © 2018 by Catherine Barnett. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press.

From Human Hours. Copyright © 2018 by Catherine Barnett. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press.

Catherine Barnett

Catherine Barnett

Catherine Barnett was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She studied at Princeton University and at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.

Barnett is the author of Human Hours (Graywolf Press, 2018); The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012), which was the recipient of the 2012 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; and Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004).

by this poet

poem
At school he studies the human body:
aorta, valve, muscle, vein.
At home he redesigns it
out of cardboard and twine
until it looks like a coat he might hang
on a hook with other missing coats.
poem
Except for the shirt pulled from the ocean,
except for her hands, which keep folding the shirt, 
except for her body, which once held their bodies, 

my sister wants everything back now--

If there were a god who could out of empty shells
carried by waves to shore
make amends--

If the ocean saved in a jar
could
poem

Turns out my inner clown is full of hope.
She wants a gavel.
She wants to stencil her name on a wooden gavel:
Esperanza's Gavel.
Clowns are clichés and they aren't afraid of clichés.
Mine just sleeps when she's tired.
But she can't shake the hopes.
She's got a bad case of it,