Treading Water by Katherine Russell Barnes 74 page collection of poetry. To order send check or money order for $12.00 + $3.99 P&H to Katherine Russell Barnes, 1708 Mayflower Dr., Wilson, NC 27893. Contact the author by phone 252-237-0792

Nominated for a Push Cart Prize 2009

About the Book
About the Author

Other books by this author:
Morning at McDonnell's

Sample of the work:


Your words, smooth as warm oil,
fill my gaunt sides, ignite
kindling laid and waiting.

My wintering muse stirs
and I know a poem must be glowing
from my eyes.

About the book

Katherine Russell Barnes knows well the profundity of her book’s title, Treading Water.  Barnes has been a poet all of her long life and she knows what writing a poem is like, what living a life means, and how the two intersect in ways that nobody, least of all the poet, can predict.  Barnes brings to her poetry wit, craft, pathos, and all the thousand and one pleasures that language can offer.  “Lips bright as birthday balloons’? Yes, they are here. Keen observations of youth and old age. Memories that never descend into bathos or cliche.  The poet treads water, the water of language and what the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke called the “heaviness”  of life.  But in the distance she hears what the earth sings, as in “Rest Homes, where “machines the size of dinasaurs/dug into ant hills, snake holes,/rabbit burrows,/Indian mounds” to make these domiciles for the elderly. The spirit of place still sings, despite the degradation visited upon it, even if the song is a dirge.  “Tonight,” she tells us...for the poet is always pulling us back to this moment to LISTEN–”tonight wind keens through the tall pines.”

                                                    Kathryn Stripling Byer,
                                     North Carolina Poet Laureate

“My wintering muse stirs,” writes Katherine Russell Barnes and her volume, TreadingWater, is proof that her muse has stirred to strong effect, inspiring this poet with the courage to undertake any subject she finds worthy, even the most disturbing. Here are lines that an observant, passionate, and sometimes difficult life has set upon the pages with candid force. I admire these poems and the full heart that produced them. 

                                                Fred Chappell, 
                   North Carolina  Poet Laureate 1997-2002

Katherine Barnes’ poems speak with the authority of a long life well lived.  Here are poems of family and community – fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, grandparents, children, in-laws, doctors, farmers, and, yes, poets – rich with detail, celebrating when celebration is called for, but not shunning the dark and the difficult, either.  These are portraits from memory’s keep, captured in language at times measured and formal and at times playful and free.  As in the conclusion to her remarkable poem “Unremarkable Anniversary,” Barnes’ poems leave us wide-eyed and thoughtful, “wondering / what system brought us / to this point, and what light / we cast.”

                                                  Jim Clark, 
Elizabeth H. Jordan Professor of Southern Literature and Writer in Residence, Barton College

About the Author

Katherine Russell Barnes, a retired nurse, wife, mother, grandmother, and poet, has been published in The Lyric, Crucible, Pembroke, Dragonfly literary magazines, and in numerous anthologies: Weymouth, Here’s to the Land by the NC Poet Society, Poets for Peace, published by Chapel Hill Press and most recently, the thematic anthologies of Old Mountain Press.

She is particularly proud of Earth and Soul, a joint literary venture with a Russian press. Poems were in both Russian and English, producing an anthology which was distributed throughout Russia in schools and libraries.

She has been a member of many organizations in her home state such as the NC Poetry Society, the Poetry Council of NC, and the NC Writers’ Network and is a charter member of the NC Haiku Society. Her involvement includes holding offices, leading workshops, and judging contests always with the hope of advancing poetry and its appreciation.  A lover of language, for all of her 82 plus years, it still befriends, and inspires her after the loss of her sight to macular degeneration.

In His Steps Publishing Company printed her chapbook, Lifework of the Heart in 2004; now Old Mountain Press releases a full-length book entitled, Treading Water.

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