Local poet Tina Barr to teach at writers conference

Barbara Hootman

Local poet Tina Barr calls her poetry “an amalgamation of my internal psychological experience, and the literal, outer world I inhabit.” That vision is reflected in her new book of poems, “Kaleidoscope.”

Here’s an excerpt from “Dessert,” one of the poems in the book.

… My grandmother’s voice, high-boned, drifted in smoke as her legs crossed and uncrossed.

My hands in my velvet lap turned her pearls; I wore

black patent shoes with a button hard to push through.

Waiters flourished lamb chops; frills dressed their bones.

I chose from a cart. Strawberries nestled in yellow cream,

the fluted edge of pastry, crust like shortbread.

Strawberries glazed under sugar, berries bedded in rows. My grandmother crossed Park, got hit by a car, and thrown.

Barr will teach a poetry master class at the N.C. Writer’s Network Fall Conference at the Doubletree Asheville Biltmore on Nov. 21. The class, titled “The Alchemy of Revision,” is part of a lineup that will attract hundreds of writers from around the country for a full weekend of activities. Barr is one of several professional writers who will present (for more, visit

“I love to teach” she said. “I am not the critical type of teacher but more of the encouraging, nurturing teacher.”

Barr is originally from Long Island, New York, and earned a master of fine arts in creative writing from Columbia University’s School of the Arts, as well as a master of arts and a Ph.D from Temple University’s Department of English.

“I knew I wanted to be a poet, and I felt the best way was through the halls of academia,” Barr said.

She formerly directed the creative writing program at Rhodes College in Memphis, where she was Charles R. Glover Chair of English Studies. She currently teaches in the Great Smokies Creative Writing Program. Classes are held at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts. She has also taught at Montreat College.

“Kaleidoscope” was released by Iris Press recently. It has been reviewed in “Poetry International” and “The Hayden’s Ferry Review.”

The Washington Independent Review of Books said about Barr’s poetry, “Hers are small hymns, lucid and centralized. … It takes a champion to write like this … to house tragedy within the perfect picture of elegance. … Talk about poetry as a holy act. Barr takes the ugly and makes it beautiful. I guess that’s why we call this kind of writing a collaboration with God.”

Joseph Bathanti, former Poet Laureate of North Carolina, calls “Kaleidoscope” fascinating. “This is a poet at the height of her powers” he said.

“Kaleidoscope” was nominated for the 2015 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award given by the Western North Carolina Historical Association in collaboration with the Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site.

Barr’s first full-length book, “The Gathering Eye,” won the Tupelo Press Editor’s Award. Extensively published, she has won awards that include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, The MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center and the Ucross Foundation.

Her three chapbooks - “At Dusk on Naskeag Point,” “Red Land” and “Black Land and the Fugitive Eye” - have won national chapbook competitions.

Poets have a hard time getting published, but Barr’s list of accomplishments doesn’t make it seem to be so for her.

“Believe me, it is difficult to get your poetry published,” she said. “You simply can’t give up. You have to forget about the last rejection slip and keep sending your work out until an editor finally likes it, and it gets published. You have to have the conviction to stay the course, keep writing and keep trying to get published.”

Her first poem was published in 1982.

“Being a professional poet is a great challenge,” she said, “because poetry tends to be a ‘coded’ language, like all true art, and it requires the participation of the reader. I try to ‘bring’ my poetry to its readers. I’ve been working at this since I first studied with poets in college and graduate schools.”

Barr lives in a cabin off North Fork Road on the side of a mountain where she has a vegetable garden. She said the natural world is her church. She is married to jazz pianist and composer Michael Jefry Stevens, who often plays locally as well as overseas.

“My husband taught me how to be an artist,” Barr said.