Word like Fire: Selected Poems

Word like Fire: Selected Poems

by Dick Barnes, Robert Mezey
     
 

Thank you, other twolegged bare featherless creature,
for sharing the jagged horizon of my life.
Thank you rainbow over the East Mojave low to the ground so early in the afternoon:
thank you for being here with us.

- from "Bagdad Chase Road in July"

A Word Like Fire, the first comprehensive selection of his poems, should

Overview

Thank you, other twolegged bare featherless creature,
for sharing the jagged horizon of my life.
Thank you rainbow over the East Mojave low to the ground so early in the afternoon:
thank you for being here with us.

- from "Bagdad Chase Road in July"

A Word Like Fire, the first comprehensive selection of his poems, should confirm Dick Barnes's place as one of the most accomplished and likable American poets of the last fifty years. His great subject is the Mojave Desert, the vast basin of ranges and valleys east and north of Los Angeles, with its beautiful shrubs and flowers, magnificent trees, ephemeral grasses, high lakes, rivers and dry river beds, alfalfa farms, and isolated towns with names like Essex, Cadiz Summit, Elephant Butte, Running Springs, Helendale, and often canny and solitary men and women. Of this world, Dick Barnes gives an indelible portrait in poem after poem.

But Barnes is more than a regional poet. As Robert Mezey writes in his brilliant Foreword, "He has an engaging variety of subjects, and to almost all of them he gives faithful perception and love." He is a master of the elegy, and wrote love poems, satires, devotional poems, and, Mezey notes, "poems of wry social comment and occasionally anger." In works such as "A Visit to Lonesome John: Autumn Coming," "Few and Far Between," "Clearing the Way," "Example and Admonition," and "Trophy Hunt"—surely one of the masterpieces of American poetry—the reader encounters a keenly observant, knowledgeable, humane, and passionate poet.

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
There are no unnecessary words in these poems, and no unnecessary poems in this book. Barnes, who died in 2000, at the age of sixty-eight, seems to have written a poem only when he had something to say. The occasions are mostly personal and local, the personal being, often, skirmishes and truces in the war between men and women, and the local being the “other” Southern California—the mountains and the desert east of Los Angeles. This is where Barnes grew up, and where he spent his career, teaching at Pomona College. The poems are lightly spiced with mysticism, though mysticism in the way of the Beats—an honest man’s recognition that the world is a little weird. What makes them extraordinary is something else: the naturalness of the voice, a vocabulary and a tone so “spoken” that the minute you finish a poem you want to read it again, just to see how he did it.
Library Journal
After reading the deceptively simple poems in this retrospective from Barnes, who died in 2000, it 's hard to understand why he's not better known. Often reflecting his California background, the poems can recall Robinson Jeffers, though they're not so grandiose. There's a quiet grandeur here and much to appreciate. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590511671
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
04/06/2005
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
168
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.40(d)

Meet the Author

Dick Barnes

Dick Barnes was born in San Bernadino, California, in 1932. Educated at Pomona, Harvard, and the Claremont Graduate School, he taught medieval and renaissance literature at Pomona for nearly forty years. He published several volumes of poetry and translations. He died in May, 2000.

Robert Mezey

Robert Mezey is an eminent poet, translator, critic, and editor. His books include the Lamont Prize-winning The Lovemaker (1960) and Collected Poems 1952-1999 (2000). He lives in Pomona, California.

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