Barbara Guest Critical Essays

Barbara Pinson


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Barbara Guest adamantly believed that poems should be elusive, mysterious, and obscure, yet at the same time concise and clear. She felt that poems should touch the reader in a self-identifying way, yet leave room for metaphorical ellipses of thought—words and thoughts left unsaid. Guest’s use of white space and a pervading sense of erased thoughts and actions blurred the lines between subject, object, and intent, leaving the reader with both a sense of identity and mystery—life without boundaries. Guest also relied heavily on visual arts, infusing her works repeatedly with painterly aspects and nuance.


Symbiosis, a poem fusing the written word and a painting, is a successful collaboration between Guest and artist Laurie Reid. Poet and artist join together to create a visually and emotionally harmonious yet elusive use of space, color, and texture. Within the poem is an unusual sense of time and space, created by Guest’s reliance on actual white, or blank, space on the page. The artist and poet seem to use and feed each other in the process of creating the sense of imagery so often present in Guest’s work. Many elements make up this imagery: separations and rejoinings of artist and writer; references to syntax, image, and literati to conjure up the work of a poet; and objects such as wood, paper, and wild berries that might be included in a still life by painters. Reid and Guest create a “symbiosis” of talent by expressing both their differences and their similarities.

Miniatures, and Other Poems

Miniatures, and Other Poems again fuses the gifts of poets and writers with cultural elements from the visual arts, music, theater, and dance. It contains poems that seem both sparse and all-encompassing. Incorporated within the poetry is concise syntax used to carry the reader to...

(The entire section is 767 words.)