Although primarily known for her singular novel Nightwood, Djuna Barnes wrote in many genres throughout her long life. She initially earned her living in New York City as a freelance reporter and theater critic, publishing articles in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York Morning Telegraph, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, New York Press, The Dial, and other periodicals. Her artistic skills showed in her drawings, some of which appeared as early as 1915 in The Book of Repulsive Women, her first published chapbook. Her artwork also appeared as illustrations for Ladies Almanack, a roman à clef about lesbian circles in Paris, a book she cleverly structured in the format of an almanac. Another collection of her drawings was published in 1995 as Poe’s Mother: Selected Drawings of Djuna Barnes. Her first collection of short stories, A Book (1923), was reissued as A Night Among the Horses in 1928 with a number of additional stories.
Barnes also was a dramatist. Her one-act plays were performed at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village, New York City. She wrote and rewrote the full-length verse drama, The Antiphon, over a twenty-year period before poet T. S. Eliot, in his position as a literary editor with publisher Faber and Faber, approved the manuscript for publication. The action of the play occurs in a fictional township in England during World War II, as family members from America reunite; family drama ensues. Their memories of love and aggression probably reflect Barnes’s own upbringing and family dynamics.
Barnes’s last book before she died was Creatures in an Alphabet (1982), a collection of short rhyming poems. Since her death in 1982, collections of her journalism, short fiction, poetry, short plays, previously published work, and manuscript selections have appeared, confirming her versatile talents in many literary and artistic forms.