Hound Mouth - Barbara Barnes


We are proud to be publishing this debut collection from Barbara Barnes, which won the 2021 Collection Competition. 

Guest judge, Kirsten Irving, said:

"Hound Mouth turns a life into a theatrical tour, stopping sometimes at warm and welcoming spaces and sometimes at bleak theatres with hostile audiences nursing threats. Revealing that “our show came to an end where the road did,” Barnes takes the reader back and forth across the Atlantic, pausing for intimate moments with mothers, partners, children, friends and strangers; even the makeup artist preparing the speaker for a show accesses a vulnerability in their subject, even as they cover them in a fresh persona.

There is a sense throughout this collection of time changing the meanings of places, objects and rituals, and altering the speaker’s relationship to key people. The show itself shifts and changes from naturalistic performance to alienation to freak show, as we witness ghost pregnancy, tiptoeing toward early sexuality, satire on North American sales patter, the voyeurism of the extra and the terror of the audition.

I loved the vulnerability and the unsaid in Hound Mouth - the pauses between actions and the set changes between numbers. Barnes leads us on a dance between wealth and poverty (the workhouse boy, the Queen herself), innocence and experience, learning afresh and recollecting. The empathy and darkness in these poems is genuine and fully embodied, and it gets into your bones."

Barbara Barnes began writing at the Poetry School, London, in Roddy Lumsden’s Wednesday group. That led to an MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University/Poetry School, which she completed in 2018. Her poems have been published in Butcher’s Dog, Ambit, Poetry London, Magma, South Bank Poetry, Under the Radar and the Brixton Review of Books. In 2016 she won a Troubadour Poetry Prize. Barbara has poetry and a blog for the Southbank Poetry Library’s WS Graham Residency.