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Human Hours

Catherine Barnett
Look at these books: hope.
Look at this face: hope.
When I was young I studied with Richard Rorty, that was lucky,
I stared out the window and couldn't understand a word he said,
he drew a long flat line after the C he gave me,
the class was called Metaphysics and Epistemology,
that's eleven syllables, that’s
hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope.
—from “O Esperanza!”
Catherine Barnett's tragicomic third collection, Human Hours, shuttles between a Whitmanian embrace of others and a kind of rapacious solitude. Barnett speaks from the middle of hope and confusion, carrying philosophy into the everyday. Watching a son become a young man, a father become a restless beloved shell, and a country betray its democratic ideals, the speakers try to make sense of such departures. Four lyric essays investigate the essential urge and appeal of questions that are “accursed,” that are limited—and unanswered—by answers. What are we to do with the endangered human hours that remain to us? Across the leaps and swerves of this collection, the fevered mind tries to slow—or at least measure—time with quiet bravura: by counting a lover’s breaths; by remembering a father’s space-age watch; by envisioning the apocalyptic future while bedding down on a hard, cold floor, head resting on a dictionary. Human Hours pulses with the absurd, with humor that accompanies the precariousness of the human condition. 

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The triumphant follow-up collection to The Game of Boxes, winner of the James Laughlin Award

About the Author

Catherine  Barnett
Credit: Jacqueline Mia Foster
Catherine Barnett is the author of three poetry collections, The Game of Boxes,Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced and The Game of Boxes, winner of the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. Her honors include a Whiting Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is a member of the core faculty of New York University's Creative Writing Program, a Distinguished Lecturer at Hunter College, and an independent editor in New York City.
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Upcoming Events

Catherine Barnett and Tracy K. Smith reading at New York University

NYU School of Law in New York, NYview map
Part of The New Salon series. In conversation with Deborah Landau. Co-sponsored by the NYU Creative Writing Program and Poetry Society of America. Location: Greenberg Lounge, NYU School of Law.

Catherine Barnett, Tarfia Faizullah, and Mary Szybist reading at Barnard College

Barnard College in New York, NYview map

Catherine Barnett reading at The New School

New School in New York, NYview map
Reading and in conversation with Donna Masini. Moderated by Honor Moore. Location: Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, Arnhold Hall.

Catherine Barnett and Craig Morgan Teicher reading at Housing Works as part of the Academy of American Poets' Fall-Winter issue launch

Housing Works Bookstore in New York, NYview map
Reading with Shane McCrae.

Catherine Barnett reading at Hunter College

Hunter College in New York, NYview map
Part of the Distinguished Writers Series. Reading and in conversation with Donna Masini. Location: Faculty Dining Room, Hunter College, West Building, 8th floor.


  • “Elegantly understated. . . . The emotional depth and observational nuance of these poems is something to behold.”Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • “Barnett uses her extraordinary poetic skills not simply to manage her not-knowing but to unleash it. . . . These poems are elixir, and they burn.”—Mary Szybist
  • “These unforgettable poems, interrogating a singular life so precisely, draw us into the precarious nature of being human.”—Claudia Rankine
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