Books by

Barry W. North

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In the Maze

$12.00 paperback

In his poem, "Sins of Omission," Barry North tells us …"all I had to do was learn to speak the language." Indeed he has – with an economy of straightforward, unembellished language, he mines the nuggets in ordinary life from the underlying vein of a quiet faith. His accessible poetry takes the reader on a journey of life’s lessons learned through experience – never with regret, self-pity or cynicism, but with an acceptance of reality, sometimes wry amusement, and with the optimism of one who "…leave[s] my past behind and start[s] anew…." From memory of a boy’s first sexual awakening, to bittersweet awareness of one’s children becoming adults, through loss and growing older, subtle commentary on marriage, homelessness, climate change, and end-of-life reality, North’s tells the truth with humanity and heart. – Sylvia Levinson, author of Spoon and Gateways: Poems of Nature, Meditation and Renewal

"Written in memory of his father, Barry North's In the Maze poignantly illustrates the power of family ties, passage of time and the inevitability of our own mortality. Reading these poems feels like eavesdropping on a private therapy session in which universal fears and regrets are expressed in search of redemption." – Erin Z. Bass, Deep South Magazine

Barry W. North, a retired refrigeration mechanic, knows how to chill his readers down to "zero at the bone." The speakers of his poems hold no illusions about God, love, heroism, or altruism; they know that the heart freezes in layers, like a lake. Yet, in clear and unflinching poems, this poet shows us that being born into language and learning to bear witness with it is the one true miracle. – Julie Kane, Louisiana Poet Laureate 2011-2013

Terminally Human

$12.00 paperback

From Terminally Human:

Who will come to save me now?

By Barry W. North,

(Written during the first Gulf War)


When did I become

so hardened to human suffering?

Who is this monster I do not recognize,

who can sit in front of a T.V.

watching a war

as though it were a mini-series?


Who taught me this trick

of accepting the destruction of 200,000 people

in the blinking of an eye?

When did I learn to look at babies —

with bloated stomachs,

crawling with flies,

starving to death in countries

with names I cannot pronounce —

as though they have nothing to do with me?

Who is this creature I cannot abide:

who would sooner part with his humanity

than with his cash;

who can dismiss all of the homeless

with a backward flick of the wrist —

the way Pontius Pilate dismissed a barefooted rebel

dressed in rags —

like so much rubbish,

too despicable to be touched

with his clean Roman hands.

Along the Highway

$6.00 paperback


2010 A. E. Coppard Prize Story

          With unflinching authenticity and intelligent compassion, Barry W. North has created in Along the Highway a first person narrator we can respect as we recognize she is too fine for the grimy fate that binds her. Even more than the socio-economic and biological determinisms that surround her, she is ironically undone by her own most sympathetic qualities: the love and consequent guilty responsibility she feels for her tragic younger sister. Are we our sisters' keepers? How does a person (and should she) let go of love and responsibility in order to get on with life?

Tom Smith, contest judge

My past, like a movie I can't bear to watch but can't figure out how to stop, keeps playing over and over again, inside my head. And worst of all, the ending can never be changed, even if I get down on my knees and pray and beg and bargain with God until I twist myself into a knot, tight with sweat.
I still live beside the same noisy and grimy highway me and my sister grew up next to. But I am about twenty-five miles further west in a whole 'nother parish. Because of all the memories, I try to never go by there. I don't drive myself, and if I go in the truck with my boyfriend, I make him take the back roads to avoid it. My boyfriend tells me the little restaurant where mama use to work burned down to the ground not long ago, and the trailer we use to live in's been replaced by an old metal building that's now a welding shop. It hurts to know it's all gone, and the only thing left is what's in my mind.

Mostly, I just stay in the neighborhood, which is really just a few blocks of rundown shacks and beat-up trailers, next to the highway. But it's a whole world, all to itself. There is a grocery store, where I've worked ever since I first turned eighteen, running the register and stocking the shelves in the cooler. Across the highway is a dollar store everybody around here calls Walmart. Everybody in the neighborhood, like me, is pretty much just getting by. They're the kind of people rich folks and snobs look at, laugh, and shake their heads. The women are mostly on welfare, and even though most of them are not married, they all call their boyfriends their "old men." I still call Billy, "my boyfriend," because I don't want him to think we're permanent. The truth is, he's got enough ideas in that direction on his own. He don't need any help from me.

The men in the neighborhood bring in just enough money to pay the rent, buy groceries, beer, cigarettes, and a little weed. The men and women, both, are all tattooed up. When they're home, the men walk around like grandpas-in old shorts, white undershirts, and crocks. Some of them are so skinny, and so covered with tattoos you can't make out because they all run together, that I swear they look like ballpoint pens all the ink has leaked out of. I don't say that to make fun of them because I know each one of those tattoos means something to them. Besides, I have a tattoo myself. It's my sister's name, Tiera, tattooed in a half-moon, just below my neck, so that it looks like a necklace I'm wearing.     

About the Author:

          Barry W. North is a seventy-year-old retired refrigeration mechanic. Since his retirement in 2007, he has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, won the 2010 A. E. Coppard Prize for Fiction, and Honorable Mention in the 2011 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards. He was recently named a finalist in the 2014 Lascaux Poetry Awards and his poem will appear in the 2015 Lascaux Prize Anthology. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Paterson Literary Review, Slipstream, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Amoskeag, and many others. His published chapbooks are Along the Highway, Terminally Human, and In the Maze. For more information please visit his website


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