Wendy Barker, UTSA Poet in residence and professor, passes at 80

Riley Carroll, Arts & Life Editor

Wendy Bean Barker, a John Ciardi Prize winner, accomplished poet, founder of UTSA’s Creative Writing program and award-winning author, recently passed away at age 80.

Barker began her career by teaching high school in 1966 and came to UTSA in 1982. During her time at UTSA, she specialized in poetry and creative writing, nineteenth and twentieth-century literature and women’s studies. She taught numerous courses in the English Department at UTSA for undergraduate and graduate students. She founded the UTSA Creative Writing program, which offers a creative writing concentration for undergraduates and a creative writing Graduate Certificate.

Barker’s poetry has been recognized globally and has earned a substantial collection of awards, including the Mary Elinore Smith Poetry Prize from The American Scholar and the Writers’ League of Texas Book Award, which she received twice. She received a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) fellowship and a Rockefeller residency fellowship. Barker also received recognition from various notable individuals for her outstanding work.

“Figures such as Alexandra van de Kamp, director of Gemini Ink and past poet laureates Naomi Shihab Nye, Carmen Tafolla and Octavio Quintanilla have offered praise for her work over the years,” UTSA Today wrote. “She was also admired by fellow poets around the world, including Sandra Gilbert, Susan Gubar, Alicia Ostriker, Rita Dove and Sudeep Sen. Her poetry and books received dozens of awards and nominations over the years by both local and national organizations.”

Her curriculum vitae lists 31 awards, 11 books, four chapbooks, 23 critical essays and reviews, 18 creative nonfiction and informal essays and seven media interviews and features. Her poems have been published over 420 times and have been translated over 50 times into Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Bulgarian for various journals and collections. In addition, she participated in over 150 readings, signings and workshops, roughly 70 papers, panels and lectures, with numerous other professional and community service activities.

“I consider myself blessed to have worked with Dr. Wendy Barker as a grad student, to have learned the wonders of poetry through our talks and her work, and to have benefited [from] her effervescent approach to teaching, writing and life,” the Director of the UTSA’s Writing Program, Debra Peña, said. “My deepest condolences to Dr. Steven Kellman, her family, and all who admired and loved her.”

“Barker is survived by her family, including her husband, Steven Kellman, a prolific scholar of comparative literature, a professor in the UTSA Department of English and a poet himself,” UTSA Today reported. “Barker was an acclaimed poet, beloved teacher and cherished colleague. She has received over 200 memorial tributes to her life and work on Facebook, with more being added daily.”