Meet a Roadrunner: Poet Wendy Barker has inspired UTSA students for 34 years

Wendy Barker

Wendy Barker

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(March 9, 2016) -- Meet Wendy Barker. For more than 30 years, the UTSA faculty member has been inspiring students through poetry.

Barker’s love for poetry started at home. When she was a baby, her parents read to her from classic anthologies.

“When I was a schoolgirl, my father would stand up in the living room and read aloud from his old, battered poetry anthology from high school,” Barker said. “I would sit transfixed. I was so moved. He would never quiz me. He would just stop and say, ‘Isn’t that beautiful?’”

Her family’s appreciation for the art form instilled a lifelong love of poetry in Barker. Surprisingly, she didn’t actually begin writing her own poems until she pursued work on her Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis. There, she worked under legendary feminist scholar Sandra Gilbert, whom Barker calls her “poetry mother.”

“She nurtured my baby poems,” Barker said. “I’d been writing little bits and putting them away in drawers. At first, I thought they were going to be short stories, but then I realized I’d been trying to write poems. I took them, trembling, to Sandra and she was not only encouraging but very positive.”

Barker graduated with her Ph.D. in literature in 1981. She found she had a wealth of job offers from various universities as a result of her expertise in American literature, 19th century British literature, women’s literature and feminist theory. UTSA was among those prospects.

“When I flew over San Antonio for my on-campus interview at UTSA, I looked down at the hill country and just fell in love,” Barker said.

As she proceeded with her interview, she experienced warmth, openness and diversity from the UTSA community. It reminded her of her upbringing in Tucson, Arizona.

“I loved that UTSA was a new university and there were so many possibilities,” she said.

Thirty-four years later, Barker is still proud of her decision to become a Roadrunner. She’s built a legacy at UTSA, teaching countless students not just how to write poetry but how to appreciate it.

To date, Barker has published two books on literary criticism, six full poetry collections and four smaller “chapbook” poetry collections. The most recent poetry collection, One Blackbird at a Time, is about her teaching experiences at UTSA.

“I care about my students,” she said. “I appreciate that they don’t take getting an education for granted. They’re hungry to learn. And how I learn from them!”

By Joanna Carver
Public Affairs Specialist


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