John Wall Barger has been my editor for six years and two poetry collections. During that time I have learned a great deal from John about craft.
John has helped me hone my poet’s noticing eye while developing my appreciation of the surreal and commitment to Duende. John has encouraged me to seek more feeling in my poetry while avoiding sentimentality. He has challenged me to find more original metaphors, music and play in my work. Since I have left full-time teaching to concentrate on writing, I have learned even more from him, including how to tame the didactic tendency of a college teacher.
John is a smart and sensitive teacher and editor who guides with questions more often than instructions. He is knowledgeable and regularly suggests readings related to themes which emerge from my poetry. John leaves his ego behind in our consultations. He has always treated me and my poetry with sensitivity, respect and patience.
John’s skillful editing continues to help me expand my range as a poet.
His adventurous writing and worldly perspective as transnational Canadian poet regularly inspire me.
—Kate Rogers, author of Out of Place (Hong Kong/Toronto 2019)
John Wall Barger is an editor who cares about poetry, likes to read poetry, and reads poetry – a combination which is surprisingly rare. His earnest, engaged, readerly eye makes him an excellent editor, because he isn’t disdainful of any mode of writing, and knows that, as they say, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” John would never skin a real cat – he’s a very caring person, and is a delight to work with in addition to being a skilful reader. He meets both the poet and the poem with a real hope of helping both succeed on their own terms; if John were running an animal hospital rather than an editor’s desk, he’d be releasing healthy centipedes, Guinea pigs, pythons, and coyotes back into the forest so they could go do their thing. I can’t recommend him strongly enough.
—Stephanie Yorke, author of Both Boys Climb Trees They Can’t Climb Down.
It is incredibly useful to have John read my poems with his sharp critical eye. He is certainly adept at fine-tuning drafts line by line, pointing out any clichés, slack rhythms, etc. However, I also appreciate his ability to see how bolder changes might improve a poem, such as shifting stanzas around, changing the perspective, or beginning where things currently end. More broadly, John also asks thoughtful questions that help me to figure out what I am trying to achieve in particular poems and in my writing more generally. This holistic approach to poetry editing makes for an encouraging experience and, most importantly, stronger poems.
—Cory Lavender, author of Lawson Roy’s Revelation
I have participated in many workshops with John Wall Barger over the years and with many other fine poets in Halifax. I always found John’s contributions full of insight, and coupled with a great concern for creating a better poem. His delivery is enthusiastic, compassionate and full of humour–all three are so much needed in a great workshop, and I and the other poets –I think it is safe to say–enjoyed his interest in poetry, literature, and teaching. He has lived in India and traveled widely and thus brought a fresh and constructive approach to the poems and the workshops I attended.
—Deirdre Dwyer, author of The Blomidon Logs
John Wall Barger was the most inspiring teacher I have ever met, one who has completely transformed my understanding of literature and life.
—Monica Lam, graduate student of Chinese University of Hong Kong