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April 22, 2019

The Creative Drive

Catherine Barnett
Barnett reads "The Creative Drive."

About This Poem


“Thinking about literary influence, I wanted to write an ars poetica out of a day’s New York Times. I turned first to the Real Estate section, which would, I figured, be least poetic and therefore most challenging. It was a fortuitous mistake—there I found Ronda Kaysen’s thoughtful lament about the fate of trees in her New Jersey suburb; her article provided the raw material for this cento (with substitutions). I tip my hat to all of the Times reporters, to whom we are indebted for their excellent and very real reporting (along with environmentalist Mike Brick and forester John Linson, whose quotes also slip into the poem). I tip my hat to all trees, which, like poems, prove simultaneously fragile and resilient.”
Catherine Barnett


Catherine Barnett is the author of three collections, including Human Hours (Graywolf Press, 2018), which was a winner of the 2018 Believer Book Award in Poetry, and The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012), which won the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. A recipient of a Whiting Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, she teaches in the creative writing program at New York University, serves as a Distinguished Lecturer at Hunter College, and works as a freelance editor. She lives in New York City.

Photo Credit: Jacqueline Mia Foster


Poetry by Barnett


Human Hours

(Graywolf Press, 2018)

"Duplex" by Jericho Brown


"Ars Poetica #1,002: Rally" by Elizabeth Alexander


"The Secrets of Poetry" by Linda Gregg


April Guest Editor: Tracy K. Smith


Thanks to Tracy K. Smith, poet laureate of the United States and author of Wade in the Water (Graywolf Press, 2019), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read a Q&A with Smith about her curatorial approach this month and find out more about our guest editors for the year.

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