One of the great things about having this site is that I can share some of the books I love. I always feel compelled to say that I’m not a reviewer. I’m a fan. I’m like the buddy who knocks on your door and says, You’ve just gotta read this one.
Since I’m trapped in this cyber pen, I’m even better than your buddy. I can’t drink all your beer or stay at your house for a month.
So, please open the door! Here’s a poet you’ve just gotta read.
justin.barrett (aka Justin Barrett) is one of the best poets of our time. Is it too bold to make that statement about one poet among thousands? Nope. I’ll say it again. He’s one of the best.
justin.barrett is well known in the small press world, as well as on the internet. He was nominated for a Push Cart and is very active (and is a featured poet) with the Guerilla Poetics Project. You can see some of his publications HERE.
I recently had the pleasure of reading two of Justin’s books, which have been published by Propoganda Press: (untitled) and nowhere, UTAH.
Both books are equally beautiful. But for a bit of brevity in this quick-bloggy world, I’ll focus on (untitled).
I love the variety in this book, which is evident in all of Justin Barrett’s work. There is humor. But there is also tenderness and pain. Regardless of style or variety, each poem always points back to the very real world of human beings.
I usually notice humor first, because I admire people who can make me laugh. Barrett’s poem, heredity, is one such example. When recalling his mother’s words about how he could be anything he wanted to be when he grew up, the narrator assesses his life and concludes:
“i don’t ever recall
wanting to be
my Uncle Jimmy.”
Justin Barrett’s humor has a deeper side, of course. But I love a poet who can make me melancholy and make me laugh at the same time.
It’s also interesting to note that Justin works as a chemist. I’m always impressed by people who can live in both the scientific and the creative world. That is really how it should be.
The scientific side of Barrett can be seen in (untitled). The voice is not the stereotypical cold voice we often associate with science. It is beautiful. It realizes the larger picture. It places us as members of this awesome and strange place we call the universe.
These thoughts go hand-in-hand with the narrator’s relationships to the world of love and human beings. In his poem, the Big Crunch, the narrator hopes the universe will contract back to a singularity:
“where every place in
will once again be
and I will have
no choice but
to be together
Another awesome poem in this book is theory of everything. A poet who couples scientific theory and love is tops on my list.
The voice that speaks of the narrator’s love is genuine. It is one of real relationships. We can all relate to the themes in (untitled). Barrett portrays the joy, tragedy, and loss of being human. Just like life, the emotions I feel when reading this book are varied. The same poet who makes me smile with a “husband and wife” poem called red boxer briefs also breaks my heart with a poem about suicide called hoping for an answer.
I admire these surprises in Barrett’s work. He sees comparisons that many people (even many poets) don’t see. In it’s kind of like being a poet, the narrator compares a poet’s life to a surfer between waves. The best part are the lulls
“in between the
it is only
and the infinite
That should be required reading for all new poets. The best times are not when we receive applause or go to events. The best times aren’t even when we’ve just written the “masterpiece” of our lives. The best times are the lulls, the times when we’re alone with the keyboard or pen, floating in that infinite ocean, trying to catch the next good poem.
justin.barrett catches many great poems. He has a keen eye for detail. His lines are sharp and professional. Yet they breathe. In what matters most, Barrett brilliantly sums up a poet’s life. When William Carlos Williams noticed a red wheelbarrow, what matters most isn’t the fact that Williams was in a room with a young patient who just died. What matters most is the fact “that he noticed.”
You can check out (untitled) by justin.barrett HERE. Believe me, I know the economy’s rough. But it’s very affordable and well worth the low price.
Nowhere, UTAH is a small art book. By small, I mean it is two inches by three inches in size. But here’s one time when size really doesn’t matter. The words inside pack a huge punch. I truly mean it when I say it is as beautifully written as (untitled). I was blown away by the poems inside, and I recommend it highly. Plus, for $3.00, even grunts like me can scrape up enough change to order. You can see Nowhere, UTAH by clicking HERE.
You can also check out some more samples of justin.barrett’s work by clicking on his website HERE.
Both Nowhere, UTAH and (untitled) are published by Propoganda Press. leah angstman is the editor and does excellent work. Check out her entire catalog of work by clicking HERE.
Thank you, Justin, for allowing me to talk about your work. I’m glad you’re around to notice the world. I’m glad you’re around to share this beautiful, crazy ride with us all.