Thursday, January 4, 2024

In Memoriam: UTSA mourns loss of renowned poet Wendy Barker

In Memoriam: UTSA mourns loss of renowned poet Wendy Barker

MARCH 22, 2023Wendy Barker, the Pearl LeWinn Endowed Chair in Creative Writing in the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts’ Department of English, has passed away at the age of 80. Barker has been a respected name at UTSA since she started teaching at the university in 1982.

Barker was instrumental in founding UTSA’s Creative Writing Program in 2008, joining together with her Department of English colleague, the late Catherine Kasper, to petition for its formation. The program currently offers an undergraduate concentration in the English B.A. and a graduate certificate in Creative Writing, as well as a creative writing thesis track for English M.A. students.

Barker founded UTSA’s Creative Writing Reading Series in 1983 when she persuaded the Dean of the College to provide $300 to fund a reading by the poet Carolyn Forché. Many doubted the event would attract an audience on a Friday evening when the campus was normally empty, but more than 100 enthusiastic people attended. Funded entirely by donors since the early 1990s, many if not most of them Barker’s friends, the series continues to this day, bringing nationally and internationally renowned writers to campus to give public readings and also to interact with students. Her contributions to Creative Writing at UTSA will be remembered for generations.

In addition to being known as an extraordinary instructor, Barker was one of the most significant forces in the local San Antonio literary community. Figures such as Alexandra van de Kamp, director of Gemini Ink, and past poet laureates Naomi Shihab Nye, Carmen Tafolla and Octavio Quintanilla have offered praise for her work over the years. She was also admired by fellow poets around the world, including Sandra Gilbert, Susan Gubar, Alicia Ostriker, Rita Dove and Sudeep Sen. Her poetry and books received dozens of awards and nominations over the years by both local and national organizations.

Barker's Weave: New and Selected Poems, (BkMk Press, 2022), follows seven full-length collections of poetry, the most recent being Gloss, published by Saint Julian Press in 2020. Her collection One Blackbird at a Time was chosen for the John Ciardi Prize and was published by BkMk Press in 2015. Earlier books include her novel in prose poems, Nothing Between Us: The Berkeley Years (runner-up for the Del Sol Prize and released by Del Sol Press in 2009); Poems from Paradise (WordTech, 2005); Way of Whiteness (Wings Press, 2000); Let the Ice Speak (Ithaca House, 1991); and Winter Chickens (Corona Publishing Co., 1990). Barker’s sixth chapbook of poems, Those Roads, These Moons, will be published this spring.

Barker’s poems and translations have appeared in hundreds of journals, including PoetryThe Southern ReviewThe Georgia ReviewThe Gettysburg ReviewPlumeRattleThe American ScholarThe Kenyon ReviewNimrodStandPartisan ReviewMichigan Quarterly ReviewPlumeNew LettersAntioch and Southern Poetry Review.

Her work has also appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 2013. Many poems have been reprinted in various venues, including the Academy of American Poetry site, Essays have appeared in such magazines as Poets & Writers and Southwest Review. She has read her poetry at dozens of universities, bookstores, festivals and conferences in the United States, Europe and in India.

A public celebration of Wendy Barker’s life and work is being planned for May 2023. Please follow @UTSCOLFA or UTSA’s Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn channels for more information.
⇒ For more information about Barker, as well as her poetry and books, visit the Department of English.

Barker is survived by her family, including her husband, Steven Kellman, a prolific scholar of comparative literature, a professor in the UTSA Department of English and a poet himself.

Barker was an acclaimed poet, beloved teacher, and cherished colleague. She has received over 200 memorial tributes to her life and work on Facebook with more being added daily.

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