Green Target, Tina Barr


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Tina Barr expresses her vision of the beauty and horrors of these times through multiple speakers whose emotional severity or volatility is matched by an environment bleak with sad tales; drowned children, farms gone bust, the death of parents. In essence, Green Target shows how important the dialogue between artists and poets truly is—as catalyst and balm. It was a challenge and pleasure to read these lyric and narrative poems made by a poet who uses her sophistication to consider the lives of those for whom so much has been denied and whose rage now makes targets of us all.
—Judge, Patricia Spears Jones

In Tina Barr’s gorgeous Green Target, her garden—that is, Nature itself—is a place of breathtaking beauty and mortal danger (in Barr’s real garden the snakes are copperheads!). Green is not only color but also valance and symbol, a profusion and abstraction of natural shapes spun by Jasper Johns into targets of focused perception. With exquisite precision, Barr braids facts from our violent world with details of pastoral fecundity. “Hate is never too strong a word once you’ve felt it come at you,” Barr muses, as she hears in the bees buzzing among flowers the sound of man-made drones. Barr’s is a profound poetry: to live with, mine for wisdom, and find our way by.
—Cynthia Hogue

from Tina Barr's new collection ????? ??????: “the wind flaps as if I were inside an / invisible parachute, domed above me, and billows / as if one world is peeling away from another.” (from “White Light”) Click To Tweet

Green Target, Jasper Johns, 1955

The circles are concentric, a paste, encaustic,
a green eye, unblinking, wedges like honeydew,
sliced into a tight mosaic, greens borrowed
from onion stalks slung over snow, the claw
opening of a hyacinth as it pushes its paw through
ice, buds like seed at the end of redbud twigs.

Greens begin in the valley; fan uphill like bees:
chartreuse, lime, darken to olive, moss, juniper,
pine at the high elevations. Jasper Johns spun
treetops into a target, before we knew acid
was in the rain, before rhododendron began
to slide off its roots, like things slain.

Twisted fronds of DNA have bridges; someone
has tampered with whatever grows, like a child
who makes moats. On the mountain rain tears
open avalanches the width of cars, collapses roads,
tarmac puzzle pieces split over a ravine.
Power lines cut as if with giant scissors.

Below the copperhead graveyard is Eden, poplar
on poplar; hundred foot stands climb steep slope;
from the porch we see at eye level, the mouse
inside the red-tail’s talons. When a hawk slams
your forearm, it handcuffs your glove, grip a clamp,
so prey never drops, digs at the chick in your fist.

Hawks, spinning, see every painted green.


Tina Barr’s books include Kaleidoscope (Iris Press), and The Gathering Eye (Tupelo Press Editor’s Prize) and three chapbooks, all winners of chapbook contests. She has received Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her residencies include the MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center and Ucross Foundation. Poems from her next book manuscript are forthcoming in American Journal of Poetry, Barrow Street, Louisiana Literature, Tar River Review and elsewhere. She lives in a cabin on the side of a mountain in Black Mountain, North Carolina.