Meet Our June Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight: Jennifer Barber

Highlighted by The Suffolk University Poetry Center
Jennifer Barber

Jennifer Barber

Jennifer Barber teaches literature and creative writing at Suffolk University, where she edits the literary journal Salamander and is a director of the Poetry Center with Fred Marchant and George Kalogeris. Her poems are forthcoming in Poetry and Upstreet; others have appeared in Post Road, Osiris, Orion, and the Harvard Divinity Bulletin. Her books are Given Away (2012) and Rigging the Wind (2003), both from Kore Press in Tucson, Arizona. She is currently translating a book by French poet Emmanuel Merle.

Poetic Profession “When I begin a poem, I feel that something tantalizing but difficult to name is lurking at the back of my mind. As I proceed, I’m hoping to increase my proximity to that mysterious place in order to describe its attributes and atmosphere; I want to get my bearings. There’s plenty of trial and error involved. Even if the subject is a familiar one, I won’t know a specific way to approach it ahead of time; the approach only becomes clear in retrospect.” -Jennifer Barber

Rooms

I held my son, my daughter,
I set them down.

*
I washed my daughter’s hair,
both of us in the bath,

I watched her hair
rise, a fan around
the full moon of her head.
*
My son strung
super-hero figures to our plants,
chair legs, table legs.

He put them in a box,
forgetting one that dangled
from the radiator’s ridge.

*
A boy called my daughter
to accuse her of cruelty
(she wasn’t in love with him).

She ran to his house
in a downpour,
waited for him, gave up.
Later, he rang our bell,
rain dripping from his hair.

*
My son, home for a visit,
met his friends at midnight,
came home at five—
we passed each other in the hall.

*
Their rooms resemble their rooms,

the floor looks at the ceiling, which looks at the floor,

the window is open to the wind.

*
My daughter took the blue
notebook that held
the hours she kept to herself,

my son left behind
a sweater, a pair of jeans,
a page of sheet music.

She took a suitcase packed to the gills.
He left a key chain that lights in the dark.

Published in Upstreet #9, 2013

Suffolk UThe Suffolk University Poetry Center, was founded by Fred Marchant and Robert Dugan. It is located in Suffolk’s Mildred F. Sawyer Library, at 73 Tremont Street in Boston. The Poetry Center sponsors poetry and fiction readings by an array of renowned and up-and-coming writers, and provides a forum for workshops, discussions, and panels. Its events are free and open to the public and foster an active dialogue between the university and the surrounding literary community. In addition, the Poetry Center houses a growing collection of books by visiting writers; videos of readings; and signed and first-edition broadsides.

spotlightMassachusetts Poet in the Spotlight is a monthly installment from Mass Poetry. Each month we will be shining the spotlight on a poet affiliated with, and nominated by, one of our poetry partners. If you are a partner with a poet to nominate, email laurin@masspoetry.org.