Award-winning Ashland author publishes 10th book

Monday, February 12, 2007
Prize-winning poet Walter Bargen sat inside his rural home in Ashland, Mo., where he works on his poetry. Bargen recently published a new book of poems titled "Remedies for Vertigo," which explores themes of high altitude, air and flight. (SHAUN ZIMMERMAN ~ News-Tribune)

ASHLAND, Mo. -- Walter Bargen recently published his 10th book, "Remedies for Vertigo," exploring themes of high altitude, air and flight.

"This is a book about transcendence and lack of transcendence," Bargen said. "In fact," he confessed with a smile, "chickens appear more often than I would like to admit."

A year ago, Bargen won the William Rockhill Nelson Award for poetry for his book, "The Feast."

With every book, Bargen said he tries to reinvent himself.

"I feel like I'm writing my best when I surprise myself," Bargen said. "I know it, but I don't know that I know it."

In a tiny notebook, Bargen flipped through a scribbling of things to do and grocery lists mixed with bits of poetry or prose. It took him a long time to acknowledge that he was a poet, but Bargen said spending 20 years as a published writer has forced him to admit it.

His poetry uses words that seem to slip and glide smoothly: "... a silhouette squawks and flies, as if only half made for flight..." and statements that strike with their careful boldness: "I have climbed the backs of gods too...".

"Remedies for Vertigo" deals with topics such as death, the fragility of life and suffering. He's been asked before why he chooses to write about these things, but Bargen said it isn't his choice.

His subject chooses him.

"This is actually a pretty dark book. I didn't mean it to be that way," Bargen said. "There's a lot of suffering in the world and for some reason I find that's what I care to write about."

As he spoke, Bargen often searched for the right words in memories of poems he'd read or written. Between reading and writing, Bargen said, "I never have enough time for either."

The written word seemed to hold a special meaning to Bargen. Poetry, he said, is how he communicates.

It also is how he explores.

"[Writing poetry] allows me to engage in the world in a way I otherwise wouldn't be able to," Bargen said. "Every day I try ... to find something no one has seen before."

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