Sonambulant Funambulist: Interview with Julie Brooks Barbour by Maureen Alsop

Julie Brooks Barbour is an associate poetry editor at the journal Connotation Press: An Online Artifact and a professor at Lake Superior State University. I’m delighted here to offer an interview with Julie along with a selection from one of her published poems which underscores the distinction of her poetry and lyrical interest.

Maureen: Where do you see the current scope/trends in poetry at this point in time and where do you see your poetry in that evolution?

Julie: I notice that contemporary poets are writing about pop culture, history, fairy tales, race and gender, but, of course, this list doesn’t begin to cover the subjects or issues poets are taking on. The scope is large and broad, and, I think, can’t be pinpointed to any certain trend, but if there is one, I’d have to say it’s that poets at this point in time aren’t afraid to take on difficult subject matter. Where do I see myself in this evolution? I write about gender issues, specifically those of women. I’m interested in the ways women are portrayed in our culture, whether through body image, fairy tale characters, ideas of motherhood, or domestic work.

Brooks Barbour’s poem “Stone” published at Rose Red Review highlights the sensuality, directness and underscores these poetic themes as demonstrated in the following excerpt:

“You are ageless, a perpetual girl. If a ship navigates

your waters, it will not be rocked. You will not be

the legend that folds its sails, that causes the wreck

on the shoreline. You are the easy route, devoid of rocks.

You are the way written about in logs and travel journals:

the sunshine, the stillness, the atmosphere of peace.”

Maureen: How do you balance your priorities when managing the multitude of roles you carry as a woman, mother, wife, educator and writer?

Julie: Each part of my life needs its own time and one thing cannot take priority over everything else. I work at switching gears between work and home, writing and teaching, editing and writing. Setting up boundaries between work and home keeps me balance, though I won’t say that my life is completely calm or that I stay that way. It’s important that I don’t think about how much I have to do, but what I’m doing at the present moment. I also have to remember to take time for myself, whether I’m reading a novel, watching a favorite television show, or watching the snow fall (which I do a lot where I live). Time to rest and refuel is important to me. During this time I might suddenly reflect on my work, whether that be teaching or writing or editing. Times of repose really energize me creatively.

Maureen: How does your teaching influence your writing?

Julie: Teaching influences my writing in different ways. Many times I’m inspired by the literature I teach, whether it be classic essays in my composition classes, poetry and fiction in creative writing workshops, or drama in an introductory literature course. Each semester I try to teach at least one text or a few pieces that are new to me so I can discover something about writing with my students. I’m also inspired by my students and their willingness to take risks with their writing, whether through form, subject matter, or genre. I may be a teacher but I’m also a student, constantly learning from other writers, and my students remind me just as I remind them that I shouldn’t steer clear of risks. (They also remind me to take my own writing advice, not literally, but when I hear myself give them advice and know it’s something I need to do, that in itself is a reminder.)

Julie Brooks Barbour is an associate poetry editor at the journal Connotations Press: An Online Artifact. Read the full poem at Rose Red Review.