Shaping Water: Poems by Barry Spacks


SKU: 978-0991665143


Gunpowder Press is honored to publish Barry Spacks’s final manuscript. Barry Spacks was born in Philadelphia in 1931. He taught at MIT from 1960 to 1981 then at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for 32 years. He served as Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara from 2005 to 2007. A recipient of the St. Botolph’s Arts Award, he published eleven poetry collections during his lifetime, including Spacks Street: New and Selected Poems (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), which won the Commonwealth Club of California’s Poetry Medal. An accomplished fiction writer, librettist, singer-songwriter, and actor, Barry Spacks died in Santa Barbara in 2014 at the age of 82. Shaping Water is the final book of poems collected and organized by the poet during his lifetime.

Laughter in wisdom, spirit in things, bread and imagination—there is an omnivorous, generous quality in Barry Spacks’ late poems, as in Barry’s presence.

—Robert Pinsky, United States Poet Laureate (1997 – 2000)

Compassionate, concise, sometimes comic, always on point, irresistible, wise, this book of poems, each in itself a profound pleasure to read, becomes as a whole also a manual of how to inhabit this world. It offers the mind, words, voice, and perceptions of a fully humane and fully human being.

—Jane Hirshfield, author of Come, Thief and The Beauty

I have loved the poetry of Barry Spacks ever since I began reading him some forty years ago—to the point of taping poems of his above my desk. You sense in every one of them the presence of a particular spirit—a spirit of great humor and great seriousness, honesty and wit, immersed in and sharply observing his life and those who have touched it…. What beautiful, singular, open-eyed and open-hearted poems these are. I will treasure them always.

—Tobias Wolff, author of This Boy’s Life and Our Story Begins

Barry Spacks is a wizard of compassion, wisdom—and the seamless fabric between them—in the guise of a comedian. While we are laughing or dazzled, a wise and caring presence is filling and softening our hearts, taking us on flights of the imagination which land in a new place we are surprised to discover is the kingdom of our better selves.  Quite simply, his poems nurture our desire to go on living.

—Dan Gerber, author of A Primer on Parallel Lives and Sailing through Cassiopeia