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About this poet

Poet, editor, and teacher Catherine Barnett was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She studied at Princeton University and at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.

Barnett is the author of two collections of poetry: Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004) and The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012), which was the recipient of the 2012 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.

Of Barnett's work, April Bernard has noted, "With subtle and cumulative force, The Game of Boxes builds a complex poetic structure in which fundamental questions about motherhood, trust, eroticism, and spiritual meaning are posed and then set into motion in relation to one another. The mind is delighted, the spirit enthralled, by this wonderful book."

Her awards and honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Whiting Writers' Award. She also works as an independent editor and as Writer-in-Residence at the Children's Museum of Manhattan where she teaches writing to mothers in the shelter system.

Barnett has been the Visiting Poet at Barnard College and teaches at the New School and New York University.

Chorus

Catherine Barnett, 1960
So who mothers the mothers
who tend the hallways of mothers,
the spill of mothers, the smell of mothers,
who mend the eyes of mothers,
the lies of mothers scared
to turn on lights in basements
filled with mothers called by mothers in the dark,
the kin of mothers, the gin of mothers,
mothers out on bail,
who mothers the hail-mary mothers
asleep in their stockings
while the crows sing heigh ho carrion crow,
fol de riddle, lol de riddle,
carry on, carry on—

From The Game of Boxes by Catherine Barnett. Copyright © 2012 by Catherine Barnett. Published by Graywolf Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

From The Game of Boxes by Catherine Barnett. Copyright © 2012 by Catherine Barnett. Published by Graywolf Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Catherine Barnett

Catherine Barnett

Poet, editor, and teacher Catherine Barnett was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She studied at Princeton University and at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.

Barnett is the author of two collections of poetry: Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004) and The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012), which was the recipient of the 2012 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem
At school he studies the human body:
aorta, valve, muscle, vein.
At home he redesigns it
out of cardboard and twine
until it looks like a coat he might hang
on a hook with other missing coats.
poem

iv.

I know agape means both dumbly
open and love not the kind of love
that climbed the stairs to you.

poem
Except for the shirt pulled from the ocean,
except for her hands, which keep folding the shirt, 
except for her body, which once held their bodies, 

my sister wants everything back now--

If there were a god who could out of empty shells
carried by waves to shore
make amends--

If the ocean saved in a jar
could