Born in North Carolina in 1920, Barbara Guest spent her childhood in Florida and California. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, she settled in New York City where she connected with the equally emerging New York Poets and artists of Abstract-Expressionism who were then to influence her poetry.
During the 1960s The Location of Things, Poems, and The Blue Stairs were published. Moscow Mansions (1973), The Countess from Minneapolis (1976), and in particular her novel Seeking Air (1978), pointed to a sense of structure moving in more varied and experimental directions. This was true of her acclaimed biography of the poet H.D., Herself Defined (1984), which had consumed five years, and especially of a major poem, The Türler Losses (1979), and of Biography (1980).
Fair Realism (1989) was followed by Defensive Rapture (1993), of which a critic has observed that Guest was now "pushing the reader into the spiritual and metaphysical possibilities of language itself." Both books were highly acclaimed: Fair Realism was awarded the Lawrence J. Lipton Prize for Poetry, and Defensive Rapture was chosen for the San Francisco State Poetry Award. At this same time, Guest left New York City, moving to Berkeley, California.
In 1995 her Selected Poems were published, and marked a continuing international recognition of her writing. The work was chosen as the best collection of new writing by the America Awards. Her Quill, Solitary APPARITION, won the same award in 1996 for the best new book of poetry. In 1999 Guest took her work in yet new directions with the publication of The Confetti Trees, fictional film scripts written in her highly lyrical style.
More recent collections included the smaller volumes, If So, Tell Me (1999), Miniatures and Other Poems (2002), and The Red Gaze (2005). In 2003 she published a collection of “writing on writing,” Forces of Imagination, followed by a collection of her art writing, D ü rer in the Window of the same year.
She died, after a long illness, in 2006.
BOOKS OF POETRY:
The Location of Things (New York: Tibor de Nagy, 1960); Poems: The Location of Things; Archaics; The Open Skies (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1962); The Blue Stairs (New York: Corinth Books, 1968); Moscow Mansions (New York: Viking, 1973); The Countess from Minneapolis (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck, 1976); The Türler Losses (Montréal: Mansfield Book Mart, 1979); Biography (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck, 1980; Quilts (New York: Vehicle Editions, 1981); Musicality (Berkeley, California: Kelsey Street Press, 1988); Fair Realism (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1989); Defensive Rapture (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1993); Stripped Tales (Berkeley, California: Kelsey Street Press, 1995); Selected Poems (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995); Quill, Solitary APPARITION (Sausalito, California: The Post-Apollo Press, 1996); The Confetti Trees (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1999); If So, Tell Me (London: Reality Street Editions, 1999); Miniatures and Other Poems (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2002); The Red Gaze (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2005).