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Humans of RMU: The international poet

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Poetry is considered one of mankind’s greatest forms of self expression. Through it, you can communicate with others in a way that breaks down the traditional barriers of language. Tess Barry, a part-time faculty member with the RMU English Department, knows this all too well as both a teacher and a published poet.

While many students know Barry from the English Literature and COSK classes that she regularly teaches, most have no idea of the role that language has played in her life—beginning at an early age.

“I’ve been writing poetry since I was a child,” Barry said. “I grew up in Pittsburgh, and I had a mother who really valued language, poetry and literature. I wrote poetry as a child because I was inspired by the poems that were read to me.”

Barry

Photo credit: Tess Barry

As the ninth of ten children, a big part of her life and inspiration comes from family. The poems that she first mentions as favorites revolve around both family and childhood. By being able to draw such rich meaning from these personal inspirations, it is not surprising that this work has also been recognized internationally. Her favorites, “My Father’s Remains” and “Raspberries” were an important part of the submission that led to Barry achieving the short list for the 2015 Manchester Poetry Prize.

With graduate degrees from both the University of Pittsburgh and Carlow University, Barry is well trained in language and writing, which she has put to good use both locally and internationally. This first began with the graduate program at Carlow, which included an overseas component.

“Part of my graduate study took place in Ireland, and as a result, I got to know a lot of Irish writers and poets,” Barry said. “I’ve been invited to teach a workshop there, and I’ve been back for readings there—four readings in Ireland in the last two years.”

Inspiration is an important part of what drives a writer to create, but finding a place to publish—so that the creation will be read—seems like a daunting task to most young writers. Barry believes that advances in communications technology have made the world a bit more compact, which is one of the reasons why there are more places than ever for writers to have their work showcased.

“There are more opportunities to publish your work—whether you’re writing poetry, fiction, non-fiction or drama—than there ever have been because of the Internet,” Barry said. “The world has grown smaller, so writing communities worldwide, especially for people writing in English, have grown as a result of that.”

Barry 2

Photo credit: Tess Barry

Barry thinks that achieving success requires that writers spend time understanding how their profession works. For example, poets should understand poetry just as aspiring novelists should know the novel both inside and out. Her advice about learning the ins and outs of language even extends to students who aren’t looking to become writers.

“I would encourage all undergrads to consider doing a minor in English,” Barry said. “Communications skills are so essential to success in any field. I think it will make them a more well-rounded person. A person who can communicate regardless of their other skills is a better candidate for a job.”

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Online:

For more information about Barry’s poetry, she maintains a website with links to her published works: http://tessbarrypoet.com/index.html

2015 Manchester Writing Competition short lists announcement: http://www.manchesterwritingschool.co.uk/news/news-2015-manchester-writing-competition-short-lists-announced

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