From Kelley Jean White, M.D.
Many years ago, in Philadelphia, a newly divorced physician and mother of three young children, I walked into Tina Barr's class at my children's school along with a dozen or so private and public high school students and a handful of adults clutching some works torn from a notebook that were shaped a bit like a poem. Tina led the discussion, and I listened, amazed that strangers, even strangers from another generation, read emotions--fear, regret, loneliness-- into my simple description of a man and a sweater--emotions I didn't know I had. And there were things I needed to express--but not to my two young children. After one class I was hooked. I enrolled in Tina's poetry workshops. Tina eventually moved away, but she has continued to be my teacher. At a reading when she passed through Philadelphia again I happened to sit near a shelf that held a copy of POETS' MARKET. . .and started submitting. I've definitely gone past my secret heart's goal of publishing a half dozen poems in 6 years, a book by the time I turned fifty. . .More, actually, quite a number of books and chapbooks, amazing friends among fellow poets literally all around the world. Involvement in medical humanities, even a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship in poetry AND the priceless moment when my mother heard Garrison Keillor say 'and now, a poem by Kelley Jean White' on the Writer's Almanac. It all began with Tina. I cannot thank her enough. (recent books, A Field Guide to Northern Tattoos, Main Street Rag Press, 2022 and No Hope Street, Kelsay Books, 2022)
Major Jackson (acclaimed author of five books of poems, most recently from Norton), on Poetry Magazine Blog
Private Zoom Classes:
"Thank you for creating such a beautiful experience in the Zoom class. It's obvious you put your heart and soul into teaching." K.M. Asheville, NC
"I had the best time in every one of our classes. The tone was supportive and courteous, the critiques helpful and kindly spoken and the conversation enlivening." J.M.C. Asheville, NC
"Your classes are so encouraging. You are so encouraging. You were totally right about "My Father's Dream," putting the father's voice in the last stanza, cutting redundancy, removing the penultimate stanza. You are just such a good editor and I am deeply grateful for and indebted to you." L.L.S. Asheville, NC
"It's been a great class. And I've learned lots, much that I can apply to other work. Definitely will consider what you said today and think about how that might work with the first stanza." K.C. Hendersonville, NC "
I learned so much from you and the poets in this session. I especially appreciated the intimacy of a small group. Thank you again for this offering and for including me." N.B. Asheville, NC
Rhodes College Students
Aisha Sharif, author of To Keep From Undressing.
"Thank you so much for your support of my book and my writing career! Without you, I don't believe I would have believed I could develop my writing into something serious. I appreciate how you always made me feel I could write about my father and race, never making me feel odd or strange. . . . The poem "When I was 13," was actually written in your poetry workshop and I remember you said that I "broke through" the wall I'd been hiding behind.
Katherine Watkins, winner of the Milken Educator Award, a national competition, Memphis, TN.
"Thank you again for everything you've done for me over the years. You are the greatest teacher and mentor I ever had. Without the role you played in my life, none of what's happening to me right now would have ever been a possibility."
From Rebecca Beach, Ph.D.
"You have been a wonderful friend and mentor to me. I would not be celebrating this doctoral degree today if I'd never walked into your poetry class all those years ago in Palmer Hall and caught some of your wonder and joy from studying words."
From Jackie McCrary
"You were hands-down my favorite professor."
Poetry Students, Asheville Graduate Center, University of NC at Asheville, Great Smokies Writing Program:
"I recently attended a well-known Poetry Festival in another State. Quite something to be among famous poets. However, when I returned, I was struck by the quality instruction I have received in the Great Smokies Writing Program and how grateful I am for the opportunities it affords me to develop as a writer. Having completed a weeklong class at the festival, I realized that the instruction I have received and the subsequent relationships I have developed in the writing community here far exceed the quality of instruction I experienced there. . . . I wanted you to know how much I value the Great Smokies Writing Program." A.W., Asheville
"I just learned that Finishing Line Press in Georgetown, KY, is going to publish a book with 25 of my poems. Approximately 15 of these poems have appeared in various quarterlies and journals. . . . You'll recognize a couple of them from your class. You are the best poet and teacher I've ever had the privilege of working with." M.R., Asheville, NC
"I submitted my chapbook, WHOSE NAMES HAVE SLIPPED AWAY, which you so generously edited, to Finishing Line Press last October. I heard earlier this week that they do want to publish it! You helped me so much with your editing. I feel so generously supported." K.N. Fairview, NC (winner of 2019 James Dickey Poetry Prize, from Five Points: A Journal of Literature and Art --Georgia State University). Her latest book is from Terrapin Press.
"I just wanted to thank you for a great and inspiring class. You Rock." B.C., Asheville, NC
"I want to let you know that I got an acceptance from Tar River Poetry for the poem "Unsummoned" that I workshopped with you and the group." K.N., Fairview, NC
"Thanks again for a wonderfully-inspired class, for your great generosity of spirit and for your encouragements all around. I'm a journalist and a copywriter by trade so I stumbled into poetry, mainly by way of Mary Oliver. I thank you for seeing the bright side of our work and I agree with you that there were, without a doubt, some staggeringly good pieces that came out of your workshop." J.F., Asheville, NC
"I realized that in the last class I was in, three of my poems were accepted (in literary journals) that were conceived in your class." P.B. Cedar Mountain, NC
I read poetry but have never written poems, only creative nonfiction pieces. But Tina Barr''s class led me to see, close and up front, that poetry has many tools that can well be used by prose writers. The use of internal rhyme. the importance of going for the specifics, the use of alliteration, Also the use of verbs that do the most work. The importance of spareness in language.She was also very adept at switching gears from poetry to the prose I was writing. Although I've written for many years, Tina zeroed right in on my voice, in a way I had not been able to do for myself. Tina also has a reputation as being a "Hatchet Women" and I would bet money on any word, or more importantly, sentence or paragraph that she suggested deleting. Her eye goes right to them. On her comments on my own work I was able to learn, "Always edit when you can." Z.R., Asheville, NC
I'm graduating with my MFA from Warren Wilson this January! You have been such a wonderful teacher and mentor along the way, and I want to thank you for the role you played in getting me to this place. The program helped me grow in incredibly ways, and I'm very excited to be where I am with my writing. W.W. Asheville, NC
"Just wanted you to know ... you've been one of my great teachers." K.J., Hendersonville, NC.
"It was great to be working with you again. You really end up making the class be for all, stimulating all kinds of ideas. I like the careful reading of different poets so much. You are a gifted teacher. You see the poem within the poem, and lead students toward the best in their work, unstinting and gentle at the same time. Brilliant with the red pencil. I know how to work on (poems) better than I did before. Please know how much I admire you and treasure your interest and support." C.S., Spruce Pine, NC
"Such a varied and interesting group of people you draw. The grouping of poems we read was extraordinary and, with the assignment, I felt myself going deeper before I even picked up my pencil." J.R., Black Mountain, NC.
"The class--your examples, assignments, guidance of conversation, and teaching--is fabulous." P.G. Asheville, NC
"You are a fabulous teacher. I very much appreciate your encouragement and nurturing feedback. This is my first writing class and it has been a grand experience." K.M., Asheville, NC
"Tina, you are teaching beautifully! Your sensitivity, compassion, empathy, experience and humor glow like the full moon! You are the best poetry teacher I have ever had!" W.K., Asheville, NC
"I'm taking a poetry writing class through UNCA's Great Smokies Writing program. My classmates, all older than me, are intellectually well heeled. I have to reach back to college for the literary, historical, astronomical, and mythological references that are current for them. For me it's good stretchy stuff!" S.E.M. Asheville, NC
"What a wonderful class, Tina. Your careful readings, rigorous edits and insightful comments were so generous. I knew writing "poems of necessity" was going to be a tough ask for me, but with your support and that of this whole smart, talented, compassionate community, it was a joy. I loved working with you and hope to again!" T.M, Asheville, NC
"Thanks for the kind and encouraging words on my poems, participation, and being part of a truly wonderful group of poets. All led by one very fine teacher." S.B., Asheville, NC
"You are the very best teacher!" J.F., Taylorsville, NC (winner of the Guy Owen Prize from Southern Poetry Review)
Director, Black Mountain Center for the Arts, Black Mountain, NC
"Tina Barr has been involved with the Black Mountain Center for the Arts since her move to western North Carolina, as a presenter of poetry at our Brown Bag and Books series, along with her jazz pianist husband; and as a teacher for the Great Smokies Writing Program for one of our satellite classes. She has brought an excitement about poetry to the Arts Center. Her passion, talent and enthusiasm have been a tremendous asset to our programming."
Independent and Tutorial Students
"The class was 'transformative.' "The class could not have been more meaningful, and neither could your instruction." J.F., Taylorsville, NC
"Your incomparable and close readings open windows and doors in my poems, and let in the light and air." M.R. Asheville, NC
"I wish you could know how you have changed my life. I am so grateful. You are like an emergency room for poems. You show me how to give poems back their lives. You're the teacher everyone wishes they had." M.E.B. Dallas, Texas
"Your instruction and support have been wonderful. I appreciate being able to work with this group . . . as it brought me back to a sense of competence and from a rather dark place where very little writing was happening. . . . You are an exceptional teacher." A. W., Asheville, NC
"This is a list of poems you have helped me rescue since we began our work. I never imagined I would have such a list, accomplished with such a brilliant teacher who shapes my mind and inspires me to work harder and wiser." M.E.B. Dallas, TX
"Your spring workshop is still reverberating in my head. It, and you, were wonderful! I really enjoyed the company too!" F.R., Asheville, NC
North Carolina Poetry Society Workshops:
"Thank you for yesterday's workshop. It was wonderful! My head is abuzz with thoughts." P.B. Cedar Grove, NC
"Tina, good job!!!!! Good workshop. I think if we had asked for evaluation sheets, you would have gotten all 10s. Thank you for finding downtown Pittsboro. Come again." R.M., Pittsboro, NC
From Ty Stumpf, Chair of the Humanities Department at Central Carolina Community College:
"As you may recall, I was in your NC Writer's Network poetry class this past November. I wanted to thank you and let you know that one of my poems we worked on, "First Allowance," was recently published in Prime Number Magazine. Thanks for your insight and guidance with my writing. I sincerely appreciate it."