Publication Date
Publication Status
Out of print
Literary studies: from c 1900 -
Trim Size
228 x 152mm

The Salt Companion to Jim Barnes


“The one right word,” as he writes in ‘The Poet’s Paradise,’ has long been a Jim Barnes desideratum. Across an illustrious literary career that has produced nine volumes of verse from This Crazy Land (1980) to Visiting Picasso (2007), there can be little doubt of seriously dedicated verve, a craftsman’s eye and ear. His landmark autobiography, On Native Ground: Memoirs and Impressions (1997) adds its own weight, a life and its imaginative turn running from hard-scrub Oklahoma birth and mixed Anglo-Celtic and Choctaw lineage, through Oregon logging in the 1950s, to an eventual professorial career at Truman State University, Missouri (1970-2003) and Brigham Young University (2003-2006).

He is the author of an important comparative study, The Fiction of Malcolm Lowry and Thomas Mann: Structural Tradition (1990), a prize-winning translator of the Munich poet Dagmar Nick, and for over nearly four decades the editor of the poetry journal The Chariton Review. This first-ever volume of essays dedicated to his work is both belated and timely recognition.

‘Bones Beneath My Feet’ offers a wide-ranging interview with Barnes, his life and writing. Contributions include a personal salute (Ken Lincoln), an across the board map of his poetry (A. Robert Lee), scrutiny of the early verse (Lance Larsen) and of the verse of the middle years (Samuel Maio), an account of Barnes’s postcard poems (Linda Helstern), and an excavation of the Barnes-Dylan Thomas connection (James Mackay). Three essays link the poetry to Native Grounds: Memoirs and Impressions (Robin Riley Fast, Paul Beekman Taylor and Patricia Clark Smith). “Poetry makes everything happen” said Jim Barnes on being appointed Oklahoma’s poet laureate in 2008. It could not speak better to his own achievement.

Praise for this Book

‘In this Salt companion volume, Jim Barnes’ poetry – writing Ken Lincoln calls “carefully edged” and “deeply insightful” – at last receives the critical attention long its due. That A. Robert Lee has gathered an insightful collection of essays from scholars as far flung as Cyprus, Geneva, and Albuquerque, attests to the broad appeal of this Oklahoma writer, whose poetic voice, the contributors demonstrate, itself stretches effortlessly between the down home, the worldly, and the sometimes other-worldly. The discussions in this volume explore Barnes’ oeuvre as it also migrates between formalism and free verse, or, as Linda Helstern suggests, conjures a Barnsian innovation in the “postcard … hybrid … contemporary sonnet” form. Whether tracing the “Native Ground” of Barnes’ poetic memoir or the influence of Dylan Thomas and the Celtic tradition, the authors in this collection remind us of why Barnes, the longtime editor of The Chariton Review, remains a force in poetry on Native grounds and in the global literary world.’ —Kimberly Blaeser

‘Jim Barnes is a superb writer whose achievements merit the critical attention given in this volume. He is renowned as a master of poetic form, a gifted teller of stories, perceptive critic, and sensitive translator. Critics have justly praised Barnes’ poetry and prose for their personal observation, strong sense of place, and language of crystalline purity.’ —A. Lavonne Brown Ruoff

‘Jim Barnes is a master of tropes, a poet of the world.’ —Gerald Vizenor

‘Reading Jim Barnes’ poems, we arrive, as in T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding,” at the place and know it for the first time. What has always been there, in poem after poem, is Barnes’s mastery of the beauty and power of language.’ —Ted Haddin