Ras, Barbara 1949-
Ras, Barbara 1949-
Born 1949, in New Bedford, MA; married; children: one daughter. Education: Simmons College, B.A.
Poet. Editor for North Point Press, Wesleyan University Press, University Press of New England, and Sierra Club Books; University of Georgia Press, Athens, assistant director and executive editor; Trinity University Press, San Antonio, TX, director, 2002—. Instructor for Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.
Kate Tufts Discovery Award, Walt Whitman Award, American Academy of Poets, 1997, and Georgia Author of the Year Award for poetry, 1999, all for Bite Every Sorrow; Ascher Montandon Award; has received honors from the National Writers Union, Villa Montalvo, San Jose Poetry Center, and Spoon River Poetry Review.
Bite Every Sorrow (poems), Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1998.
One Hidden Stuff (poems), Penguin (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to Between Heaven and Texas, edited by Naomi Shihab Nye, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2006. Contributor to poetry and literary journals, including Massachusetts Review,Salmagundi, Orion, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, American Scholar, and Boulevard.
Barbara Ras is the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collections Bite Every Sorrow and One Hidden Stuff. Ras has traveled extensively in Latin America and lived for a time in Colombia and Costa Rica. In 1994 she edited Costa Rica: A Traveler's Literary Companion, a collection of twenty-six stories organized by the geographical regions in which they are set. Among the contributors are José Léon Sánchez, Yolanda Oreamuno, and Carlos Salazar Herrara. According to Diane C. Donovan, writing in MBR Bookwatch, the "excellent narrative stories bring to life the underlying nuances of the country's experience as no ordinary travel guide could accomplish." A contributor in the Economist similarly noted: "If advice on whether to boil the water or cover your head in holy buildings is what you are after, this is not your book; if you want to make inroads into the Costa Rican imagination, it is a must-read."
The author's debut poetry collection, Bite Every Sorrow, appeared in 1998. In the work, Ras examines the details of everyday life, reflecting on marriage, motherhood, work, and family. "Everything she witnesses, overhears, ingests, and touches is a catalyst for her penetrating imagination," noted Booklist critic Donna Seaman. Ras garnered the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets in 1997 for Bite Every Sorrow. C.K. Williams, who judged the award, stated on Poets.org: "What's most immediately striking about her work, and what continues to gratify in it, is its sheer human amplitude: her poems are rich with life-matter, with incisive perceptions and acute experiential insight; they're plotted with a wide-ranging self-consciousness and informed by a metaphysically erudite and whimsical exuberance." Williams offered special praise for the opening poem, "You Can't Have It All," which begins: "But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands / gloved with green.
You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger / on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back." "There are many such moments in the book," Williams observed, "situations of precisely observed and movingly rendered gesture, in which the domestic, the seemingly ordinary, is exalted by imaginative intensity and sympathy to something beyond itself." According to Library Journal contributor Frank Allen, in Bite Every Sorrow Ras illustrates "how ordinary personal memories grow into a beautiful ‘life of the mind’ that transcends selfhood."
Ras's second collection of poems, the 2006 work One Hidden Stuff, "is an entertaining and at times very moving … effort, which pays attention to life's small pleasures and subtle difficulties," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Written primarily in free verse, Ras's poems explore a range of subjects, from dreams and war to dogs barking and the Texas sky. "Propelled by alliteration, assonance, consonance, and exquisite verbs, the poems have a breathless tone," wrote Diane Scharper in Library Journal, and Seaman commented in another Booklist review that the poet's "bittersweet, immediate, and wise lyrics are long-lined and punctuated with glissandos and unexpected leaps." One Hidden Stuff "reveals the confidence and skill of a fine writer who is willing to take risks as she brings the reader along on a quest for the world's one hidden stuff—a venture uniquely appropriate for poetry," concluded John Hammond on MySanAntonio.com.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of Bite Every Sorrow, p. 1295; September, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of One Hidden Stuff, p. 39.
Economist, April 30, 1994, review of Costa Rica: A Traveler's Literary Companion, p. 100.
Library Journal, March 1, 1998, Frank Allen, review of Bite Every Sorrow, p. 92; November 15, 2006, Diane Scharper, review of One Hidden Stuff, p. 75.
MBR Bookwatch, October, 2005, Diane C. Donovan, review of Costa Rica.
Publishers Weekly, July 1, 2002, Bob Summer, "Trinity U. to Revive Press," p. 15; September 18, 2006, review of One Hidden Stuff, p. 38.
MySanAntonio.com,http://www.mysanantonio.com/ (December 1, 2006), John Hammond, "Poet Looks at Substance That Ties All Together in Life," review of One Hidden Stuff.
Poets.org,http://www.poets.org/ (April 15, 2007), "C.K. Williams on Barbara Ras's Bite Every Sorrow."
SouthCoast Today,http://archive.southcoasttoday.com/ (October 17, 1998), Robert Lovinger, "New Bedford Native Earns Poetry Award."