Wendy Barnes G’16 turned her D.Litt. dissertation into her debut book
March 2022 – Wendy Barnes G’16 has been awarded a Juniper Prize for Poetry for her book Landscape with Bloodfeud, based off her Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) dissertation at Drew University’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies.
“I came to the D.Litt. Program knowing that I wanted to work on poetry and write a book for my dissertation,” said Barnes.
“I had an MFA in Writing from California Institute of the Arts but had somewhat lost the thread in terms of my writing practice. What attracted me to the D.Litt. program at Drew was that it is a broad-based humanities degree—meaning I could take a range of classes according to my interests—that would also give me time and support for my writing.”
By becoming immersed in a wide range of subjects, Barnes opened herself up to myriad viewpoints and influences.
An independent study in feminist art with Kimberly Rhodes, professor and chair of art history, influenced the form and content of some of Barnes’ poems. A course on Oscar Wilde with Christine Kinealy, professor of history, had Barnes create a chapbook of poems. A Celtic history class with Jonathan Golden, director of Drew’s Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict and assistant professor of comparative religion and anthropology, helped Barnes rethink some of her ideas about received history, which made their way into her book. Her first nonfiction class with Robert Carnevale, adjunct assistant professor of arts and letters, offered structured writing and feedback that helped Barnes build confidence as a nonfiction writer.
“Prof. Carnevale’s poetry workshops and advice played a crucial role in the completion of the manuscript,” she said. “I couldn’t have foreseen how much my work would gain from the unexpected detours my thinking and writing would take.”
After earning her D.Litt., Barnes worked for four years to turn her dissertation into Landscape with Bloodfeud, which will release next month.
For Barnes, receiving the Juniper Prize for Poetry: First Book award opens up new creative possibilities.
“The award means that I have an audience, that I am no longer just having a conversation with myself and the few friends I talk poems with,” she said. “And that spurs further work and conversation and community.”
“It came with other perks, too,” she added. “I am on a temporary leave of absence from Union County College in Elizabeth, NJ, where I’m an associate professor of English, and I am serving as Artist-in-Residence at the University of Central Oklahoma. I am teaching upper-level undergrad and graduate students and advising masters theses. I have been asked to judge the Saguaro Poetry Prize from Kallisto Gaia Press. These opportunities certainly would not have presented themselves without the award.”