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About this poet

Poet, editor, and teacher 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 two collections of poetry: Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004) and The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012), which was the recipient of the 2012 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.

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.

The August Preoccupations

So this morning I made a list

of obsessions and you were on it.

And waiting, and forgiveness, and five-dollar bills,

and despots, telescopes, anonymity, beauty,

silent comedy, and waiting.

I could forswear all these things

and just crawl back into the bed

you and I once slept in.

What would happen then?

Play any film backwards and it’s elegy.

Play it fast-forward it’s a gas.

I try not to get attached.

But Lincoln!

I see stars when I look at him.

Copyright © 2015 by Catherine Barnett. Originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of Tin House. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Catherine Barnett. Originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of Tin House. Used with permission of the author.

Catherine Barnett

Catherine Barnett

Poet, editor, and teacher 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 two collections of poetry: Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004) and The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012), which was the recipient of the 2012 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem
This evening I shared a cab with a priest
who said it was a fine day to ride cross town

with a writer. But I can't
finish the play I said,

it's full of snow.
The jaywalkers

walked slowly, a cigarette warmed
someone's hand.

Some of the best sermons
don't have endings, he said

while the tires rotated
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
My son took a picture of me
jumping the cemetery wall. Do it again,
he said, as if I'd got out too fast.
Pretend you're really climbing.

In the retake my lazy eye is half shut,
and the other is smiling or crying.