Poetry: Barbara Tomash

Of Nature

I am neither the strangeness of the voice nor the creature too small and finite how quickly the need to expand oneself one draws the circle one dons the rescue suit living matter how quickly the earth’s strangeness how quickly the voice is not god’s but night’s curious dimen-sion I am neither an absolute form nor a part of the rest how quickly night blackens

Of Surroundings

what if you need clumsy excess as a giant would twisted and tamed windows doors porches and terraces what if as a beaver does you need disintegration what if you need orb empty light hollow breezes uncluttered for a day or two or two million years of human evolution what if you experience signs of shattering and blind bone seeing inward abandons you and the shadow of a ridge in the continually flickering present

Of Leaves

near your bed the sea shell box of small bones and press your hand to chest you   lack   bones   leave weight leave home leave gap and gone and get long fingered flick the length of flute calm full wind spine fan take hold tear not rake not weep into leaf heaps per hope your lungful


I came to poetry from the visual arts and I remain interested in how the sound and sense of a poem shifts according to how the words are arrayed on the page. For this set of poems, I wanted to try “surrounding” my words within a frame of sorts, to work with the pressure exerted by a justified right margin. Could I use the margin to squeeze and contain these poems whose listing was inclined to list toward entropy? I see the page more as a window than a box, a translucence that shapes and makes possible perception, while above my desk, the actual window, filled with tree branches, becomes the scrawled-upon page.


Tomash_listing windowBarbara Tomash is the author of three books of poetry, including Arboreal, forthcoming from Apogee Press this fall. Her first book, Flying in Water, won the 2005 Winnow First Poetry Award and was finalist for the Autumn House Press Book Prize and semi-finalist for the Slope Editions Prize and the Nightboat Poetry Prize. The Secret of White was published by Spuyten Duyvil (2009). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Colorado Review, New American Writing, Verse, Bateau, VOLT, Witness, and numerous other journals. She lives in Berkeley, California and teaches in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State.