Let’s Talk Poetry: Poet Kayla Barker

October 28, 2013

Neil Carpathios

Contributing Columnist

Since starting this column a few years ago, I have been introduced to many poets who have written to share their works. All of them are special, and I am grateful to each one for helping to spread poetry to readers. Now and then, though, a poet comes along who stands out. Kayla Barker is such a poet.

Born in Columbus, Ohio and raised in Portsmouth, Kayla writes that she was bitten by the poetry bug in early childhood when her mother gave her a book of poems to read. That book was the famous collection, The Prophet, by Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran. At the time she didn’t even know what a poem was, but the book’s musical language and mystical themes infected her mind and started a life-long love affair with poetry.

As I read some of the poems that Kayla sent to me, I quickly realized that a special sensibility was at work behind the words. I felt almost dizzy to discover a new poet capable of a line like this one: “…the night you took a scalpel to my chest and fed my heart to the stars…” Or this one: “I want to be scarred fruit, still savoring the promises I sucked from your mouth.” Or this one: “Dance with fistfuls of roses, shred their petals one by one and wear their thorns like armor.”

Kayla Barker’s poems are intense gut-punches to the psyche. They contain simple language that sears. I love their directness and haunting imagery. I would happily include here some of her longer poems, but instead will share a handful of shorter pieces that demonstrate the qualities I mentioned.


She corrodes star shapes into

the hearts of sleeping poets,

slowly, methodically.


This windowpane loneliness

has devoured too many stars

making love to ocean beds.


It’s like cultivating a greenhouse

with broken fingers.

August Lover

I want to wrap myself in your air,

hold your secrets between my

ribcage-embrace and just


I have no doubt that if Kayla Barker continues to write and work on her craft, she will someday make her mark in the poetry world. How exciting to learn of a local poet of such promise.

Send poem submissions and correspondence to: ncarpathios@shawnee.edu or Neil Carpathios, Shawnee State University, Dept. of English & Humanities, 940 Second Street, Portsmouth, OH 45662. (740-351-3478).