Be A Little Decent, Be A Little Mean


Barrett Warner
photo by Jessica Lynn Dotson


an interview with Barrett Warner by Maura Snell

We at The Tishman Review are very excited to announce that Barrett Warner will be our guest judge in the first annual Emerging Voices Poetry Contest.  Mr. Warner is an accomplished poet and writer and is an associate editor at Free State Review. His work has been featured in many journals including Entropy, Revolution John, Chiron, Berkeley Poetry Review, Four Chambers, Consequence, and Poetry Fix.  Last year, his chapbook My Friend Ken Harvey won the Chris Toll Memorial Prize, his short story Dimension won the Salamander Fiction Prize, and his poem Tanya, Tanya, Tanya won the Cloudbank Poetry Prize. Recently, he also won the Tucson Festival of Books essay prize.  Here is a brief interview with Himself:

MS: What will you be looking for in the poetry submitted to The Tishman Review for this contest?

BW: I like a road with bends and hills and dips, and I’d rather stay off the highway, but not be so off-road I need special tires. A few have assumed I have a fascination with bridges, but I’m more interested in the stream or river underneath the span.

I want surprises, but not ones which are completely unexpected. And to fall in love, especially the falling part. I want everything to move … the gun, the bullet, the target. I want locomotives that make more than one or two stops on the route. I want endings that spiral toward infinity. I want an elastic lyric and metaphor and some narrative thread to lessen the workload of the images.

MS: What is the most exciting poetry you’ve read recently and who are your favorite poets these days?

BW: The poetry that most excites is the poetry that leaves me wishing I were someone else, in a different time and place, a different color, gender, and religion, even a different animal. It’s poetry that not only takes me out of my routine, but slings a few arrows so that I’m in love with that new parallel—world or feeling or truth—I hadn’t known existed.

The new poems of Mike Young and Carrie Lorig made my bones jump. Mike writes very personal poems but leaves so many windows open for us to see and imagine and really share in the private moment of splendor. Carrie is just way so much smarter than I’ll ever be. Her poems have a quieting effect on me that opens me a little.

Hope Maxwell Snyder is someone who uses an amazing number of precise images to create subtle evolutions. And Alexis Fancher, her new L. A. Noir poems are so radiant with empathy. I admire these poets for their gifts and for how hard they work. I could never write in their styles. It would be like Bruce Springsteen forming a steel drum band. But man, I love the music.

MS: Can you tell us what you’re working on right now?

BW: I’m writing a review of Stanley Plumly’s, The Immortal Evening: A Legendary Dinner with Keats, Wordsworth, and Lamb. It’s one of those books that ate most of my January and February, and I’m trying hard not to finish the essay so I can keep enjoying the book.

My poetry manuscript, Why Is It So Hard to Kill You? is making the rounds, as is a small collection of essays titled Gambler’s Choice.

A new poem has been keeping me awake. It’s about the fire brigade, and the Charleston Highway, and coyotes, and being vegetarian. I’ve been vegetarian for eight days now.

MS: If there’s one thing you’d like to offer as advice for new and aspiring writers, maybe something you’ve had to learn the hard way, or wish you had figured out sooner, what would it be?

BW: Write with your voice, revise with your pen. Clarity is an act of decency and kindness, but poems can also be a little indecent and a little mean. Trauma is OK, but to me, the real story is not the fact a horse kicked your hand off your wrist—or whatever—the story is how it was sewn back on a little crooked and how you spent hours chasing a dime across the Detroit airport trying to pick up the coin with your bad hand.

To see more of Barrett Warner and his work, check out his website at:

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