Seven Visual Poems by Brian Barker

A Process Note

I’ve been playing as a collagist for about a decade now. My collages are handmade, drawing from my vast collection of paper ephemera—discarded 19th century books and magazines of natural history, science, medicine, religion, and children’s literature, and other paper ephemera. 

During the pandemic, unable to concentrate on writing poetry, I started doing some page erasures of obscure, late 19th/early 20th century novels I found on the Internet Archive, all with the phrase “the secret of” in the title. This decision to use only books with “the secret of” in their titles was partially arbitrary. The very first book I picked at random was The Secret of Wold Hall (1905) by Evelyn Everett-Green. Focusing on texts with similar titles helped me narrow down the vast sea of selections on the website. But, I was also intrigued by the idea that these books held hidden wisdom—secret stories, aphorisms, dreams, and images—embedded in the original texts that they might relinquish through the process of erasure. 

Though I liked the fragmented texts I was chiseling out of the pages of these old novels, I didn’t know if they stood on their own. Thus, I started messing around combining the text with collages, and these visual poem are some of the results. 

I hope these collage poems create a space of meditation and reverie, a place to consider their underlying concerns, such as death and the afterlife, the nature of the self, the nature of God, time, and uncertainty.


Brian Barker is the author of three books of poems: The Animal Gospels,The Black Ocean (winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition), and Vanishing Acts (forthcoming in 2019). His poems, reviews, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as American Poetry Review, Poetry, Diagram, Kenyon Review Online, Indiana Review, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, The Writer’s Chronicle, The Washington Post, The Cincinnati Review, Blackbird, and Pleiades. His awards include an Academy of American Poets Prize and the 2009 Campbell Corner Poetry Prize. He is married to the poet Nicky Beer and teaches at the University of Colorado Denver, where he is a Poetry Editor of Copper Nickel.