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Coleman Barks Interview

Assistant to The Georgia Review editors C. J. Bartunek had the opportunity to talk with Coleman Barks in his home in Athens in January 2013. The Georgia Review offers Bartunek’s comments on the experience as well as two audio recordings – one of the interview and one of Barks reading from his own  work as well as Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno, lines from which Barks included in his long poem “The VOICE inside WATER.” Bartunek notes that this reading is a rare opportunity for listeners “because in one of the poem’s copious footnotes [Barks] writes that ‘Most likely. . . I will never bring this poem and its notes to a reading. Too long, too willful in its wandering.'”

The interview begins with Barks: “I’ve never tried to think systematically about these long poems that I write or to justify them with any kind of poetic or rationale. Steve keeps trying to make me think more consciously about what I’m doing, but I don’t like that. I resist that. I just finished this poem and felt that it was a whole thing, somehow, and I felt good about it. But now I’ve been rereading it and justify it, and see what questions you might ask, and I wrote down nine purposes that I have in this poem, if I were going to teach it, I guess.”

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