Journalist, academic and, now, a poet. Marsha Barber employs a variety of media to communicate her message

November 10, 2011



Marsha Barber says she will never forget the reaction of a former CBC colleague upon discovering Barber had written a book of poetry.

Journalism professor Marsha Barber signs books at the launch of What is the Sound of Someone Unravelling

“She said to me, ‘How interesting. And odd,’” the Ryerson journalism professor recounted to a gathering of about 80 friends, family and colleagues attending the launch of her poetry collection, What is the Sound of Someone Unravelling.

The book, released earlier this month, is a collection of short poems that are thematically arranged in three parts. The subject matter ranges from light topics, such as the futility of committees, to deeper subjects, like the suicide ofa friend’s father.

Barber insists her desire to write poetry is not as odd as it seems. “Sometimes when you look at a TV script on the page, it does look like poetry. In our classes, we talk about clear and concise writing that has parallels, of course, in some poetry.”

It is this style of writing that is noticeable throughout Barber’s poems. Indeed, the audience had little trouble deciphering Barber’s frustration with housework, bursting into laughter as she read aloud “A Brief Meditation Upon Housework.” The crowd paused in collective silence before applauding, not needing an English scholar’s training to understand the pain behind “The Suicide.”

“In most of myactivities, the impulse is to reach people and to communicate,” Barber said in an interview. Barber, the Teaching Chair for the Faculty of Communication and Design at Ryerson University.

Barber pointed to her earlier work as an investigative journalist to illustrate that the connection between her journalism and her poetry go beyond writing.

“When you do that kind of journalism, it’s really important for you to get to the heart of what’s going on,” she says.  “Poetry allows you to discover a kind of truth, as well.”

Barber said she actually wrote some of her poems based on what she learned and experienced as a documentary producer. “Being a journalist allowed me the privilege of covering journalistic stories all over the world,” she says. “I was very influenced and moved by what I saw.”

Barber’s poem, titled “Escape,” was her response to events taking place in Afghanistan. It discusses young girls who burn themselves to death to escape the older men they’ve been forced to marry.

“When I’m writing, regardless of the medium, I want to connect,” says Barber. “Clearly each genre has its own conventions but whether I’m writing articles, memoir or poetry, the impulse to be clear and to communicate is similar.”

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