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Barbara Ras

New Bedford , MA , United States
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Barbara Ras

In 1949, Barbara Ras was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She was educated at Simmons College and at the University of Oregon where she received an MFA in Creative Writing.

Her first collection of poems, Bite Every Sorrow (LSU Press, 1998), was chosen by C. K. Williams to receive the 1997 Walt Whitman Award. In his citation, Williams said: “Barbara Ras’s poems are informed by a metaphysically erudite and whimsical intelligence...her verbal expertise and lucidity are as bright and surprising as her knowledge of the world is profound. This is a splendid book, morally serious, poetically authentic, spiritually discerning.”

Bite Every Sorrow was subsequently awarded the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. In 1999, Ras was named Georgia Poet of the Year.

Her other books of poetry include One Hidden Stuff (2006) and The Last Skin (2010). She is also the editor of a collection of short fiction in translation, Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press, 1994).

Ras has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She has taught at writing programs across the country and has been on the faculty of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Ras currently lives in San Antonio, where she directs Trinity University Press.

by this poet

poem

Thrushes, alert for opportunity,
sleep in winks of thirty seconds or less.

Has Guinness tracked the longest sigh on record
and was it exhaled in exasperation or ecstasy?

In the measure of apothecaries, one scruple
equals twenty grains, a lot of data to debunk.

Four centuries ago a

2
poem

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
of

poem
There were feathers and the light that passed through feathers.

There were birds that made the feathers and the sun that made the light.

The feathers of the birds made the air soft, softer

than the quiet in a cocoon waiting for wings,

stiller than the stare of a hooded falcon.

But no falcons in this green