“We Are Not Avatars: Essays, Memoirs, Manifestos” by John Barton— Poet, Editor and Mentor

Barton, John. “We Are Not Avatars: Essays, Memoirs, Manifestos”, Palimpest Press, 2019.

Poet, Editor and Mentor

John Barton is a nationally known poet, editor, and mentor who enjoys meeting and working with writers at all stages of their careers. He is author of eleven books of poetry and has edited two of Canada’s most prominent literary magazines, Arc (1988 to 2003) and The Malahat Review (2004 to 2018). He has taught poetry at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and the University  of Victoria; led workshops on craft and publishing for the New Brunswick Writers Federation, Saskatchewan’s Sage Hill Writing Experience, and Ottawa’s Tree Reading Series; and served as writer in residence at the Saskatoon Public Library (2008/ 2009), the University of New Brunswick (2010/2011), and Memorial University of Newfoundland (Fall 2015). Whether in front of a classroom, leading a workshop, or working one on one, he enjoys inspiring writers to realize the possibilities  of their poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, and memoirs.

​Barton has been the poetry editor for Winnipeg-based Signature Editions from 2005 to 2008 and has been a manuscript editor for Brick Books in London, Ontario, since 2010. He has also edited books of poetry for Wolsak and Wynn and Coach House. Writers have privately engaged him  to evaluate and edit their manuscripts prior to submitting them for consideration to publishers. He worked in Ottawa for two decades as a librarian, a production manager, a publications coordinator, and an editor at five national museums, including the National Gallery of Canada, where from 2001 to 2003 he oversaw the publication of the quarterly magazine, Vernissage. He joined the advisory board of Grain, Saskatchewan’s literary quarterly, in 2016.

​Born in Edmonton and raised in Calgary, John has won three Archibald Lampman Awards, an Ottawa Book Award, a CBC Literary Award, and a National Magazine Award. Since 1980, his poems, essays, articles, interviews, and book reviews have appeared in anthologies, literary magazines, and newspapers in Canada, Australia, China, India, Romania, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

He lives in Victoria, B.C, where he was appointed to be the fifth (and first male) City of Victoria Poet Laureate in January 2019.  Palimpsest Press has published his first book of essays, We Are Not Avatars: Essays, Memoirs, Manifestos.  Barton began publishing in an era much less attentive to queer voices. In this special book, Barton grafts his own memoir about finding his voice as a poet and feet as an editor to astute takes on Margaret Avison, Emily Carr, Pat Lowther, Maureen Hynes, Anne Szumigalski, and many others. Making this book even more essential reading is the larger cultural context Barton brings to bear by writing about the historical production evolution and reception of queer writing in the lengthening shadow of equity.

Barton’s work is a brilliant example of grace on display, from a poet who continues to illuminate his literary powers for those of us who consider poetry as alive and essential as air and dance.
—Jim Pietchota, Bay Area Reporter, about Polari



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