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Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: English Studies: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Steven F. Klepetar

Second Advisor

Constance M. Perry

Third Advisor

Daun G. Kendig

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


The poetry of Mary Barnard has been largely ignored by scholarly and literary society since she began writing in the 1920's. This is due in part to her variety of subjects, themes, and forms, as well as to her relatively small output. Nevertheless, it comprises an important contribution to the development of American poetry in the twentieth century, a fact which has been acknowledged by her peers such as Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, William Stafford, and Sam Hamill. This study of her poetic development identifies and examines several important aspects of and influences on Barnard's verse in order to assess her contribution to the free verse movement and to contemporary American poetry in general.

Her broadest theme, nature, takes many forms in poems that address subjects such as her native Pacific northwest, weather, the passage of time, human life and death, and various animals. Another broad theme, mythology and folklore, is really a subdivision of her fascination with nature that takes human nature as its focus. For Barnard, the study of mythology is a unifying force which connects the past, present, and future of human history.

Time is important as more than a theme in Barnard's work. It also points to her concern for the musical and vocal aspects of verse, which must, for her, be measured in time. Because poetry is temporal, Barnard has never ignored the power of meter even as she has worked to overcome the stifling effects of traditional (iambic) English language metrics. Her quest to discover a new metric, loyal to the natural rhythms of spoken English, led her to study Greek metrics and quantitative metrics, and to combine characteristics of quantity and stress in the balanced line that forms th£ basis of her own metric.


This thesis was digitized and published to The Repository with the generous permission of Molly Ewing.

OCLC Number