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A well-known professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism is celebrating the release of her latest book of poems. Marsha Barber, admired by students for her broadcast career launched her third book, Love You To Pieces, this Wednesday, at the Venn.
I got a chance to ask her about her colourful career, where she finds fountains of inspiration and how she defines success as a poet.
Ryersonian: How do you compare poetry to journalism?
Marsha Barber: I think there are parallels. The language of good broadcast journalism is clear and concise. Some poetry has a certain sparseness and intensity that makes me reflect on the best examples of broadcast journalism. And sometimes when you look at a really good broadcast script, it actually looks like poetry on the teleprompter.
R: Where do you find your inspiration?
M.B.: It’s everywhere. I write very personal poems but I also write poems that are inspired by the news headlines. I write my rough draft late at night and then, after a lot of revision, they’re sometimes ready to see the light of day.
Ryersonian: What advice would you give someone who wants to start writing poetry?
M.B.: Just write. Write and then rewrite and rewrite. The work is made in the rewriting and you can’t do enough revision. It’s like polishing a stone; the more you polish, the closer it gets to a gem. That may be a really awful analogy actually because I don’t know if stones turn into gems, but whatever that process is.
Ryersonian: Which poets have had the greatest influence on your work?
M.B.: I worked for the poet Dorothy Livesay many years ago, and at the time she was known as “the grandmother of Canadian poetry”… I also love a number of classic poets such as Keats and Yeats. I love the poet Cavafy and there are many fine Canadian poets such as Pat Lowther and Lorna Crozier. I think part of this is, if you are writing poetry, it is important to read poetry. And when you read a good poem, that’s always very inspiring.
Ryersonian: As a poet, what does success mean to you?
M.B.: If my poems can connect with people, if they can relate to my poems and see some kind of truth in them, then to me, that’s success. I write because I want to connect. I’ve written poetry since I was seven years old so I’ll never stop writing poetry; I hope there will be more books. Poetry is my way of making sense of the world, so in view of that I doubt I will ever stop needing to write.
The launch party for Barber’s third poetry book was held on Sept. 18 at the RSJ.