Books by Barbara Sher Tinsley

Phonotactics, The Sounds of Poetry

Barbara Sher Tinsley, Ph.D. (Stanford’83), has applied her academic, artistic, and literary knowledge, musical gifts, and love of nature to creating Phonotactics, The Sounds of Poetry. She is a singer of the broad culture, the personal, of family life, sensuality, history, philosophy, place, and the significance of a well-rounded life.

The seemingly simplest of her poems are sometimes the deepest; the most complex appearing may be easier. Satire, humor, tenderness. These are her tactics of poetic sound, our surroundings, thoughts. Her surround sound is not in theaters, but in experience.

A Fulbright Fellow and resident (two years) of Paris, Florence, Italy’s Tyrol, and Almuñecar, Spain, where net menders gathered each morning, inspired a painting and a poem. Her long residence in California’s Bay Area has enriched her life.

A professor of French, humanities, world literature, history, and English composition at Stanford, Santa Clara University, San Jose State, Stephens College, and several community colleges, she has published four books on European history; three on poetry, (another forthcoming); a novel on Italian culture; and articles in various encyclopedias and academic journals.

Her biography appears in Who’s Who in America and she is listed in The Dictionary of American Philosophers.

Dr. Tinsley’s poems on language, philosophy, love, writing, music, history, geology, archaeology, astronomy, insomnia, business, family, hacking, fake news, violent movies, computers, gardens, art, contentment, literary criticism, let us meet not just the poet, but ourselves. For, as Aristotle thought best, she deals with universals, our shared humanity.

Her first two poetry collections are Art, Passion, Poetry (2015), and Streaming Consciousness (2016). The fourth, Travelling in Place … and to Other Places, will appear shortly.

As one perceives from my dedication, music was on my mind – my uncles’ and my own – to create poetry that is truly musical, with meter, rhyme, and compelling themes.

Phonotactics was a word I discovered thumbing through my dictionary while looking for another word. I had no idea what it meant, but learned that sound involves tactics and techniques, all involved in poetry.

My own poems are quite varied, from Renaissance villanelles and sonnets to philosophical musings on great thinkers. The poetry honors historical monuments to monuments dedicated to man’s cultural achievements, and to their corruption or destruction by barbarians, old and modern.

My first two poetry collections are Art, Passion, Poetry (2015), and Streaming Consciousness (2016). The fourth, Travelling in Place … and to Other Places, will appear shortly.

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Art, Passion, Poetry

TinsleyCoverWebArt, Passion, Poetry was inspired largely by the fact that with teaching, research, writing, and painting, I have had less time for playing the piano, which I dearly love, and have played since age five.

I have transmuted the musical urge into a different kind of music: poetry, where I think my musical instincts are more developed than at the keyboard. However, the words of poems are as notes to me, and each line a chord or arpeggio or trill that, when the poem ends, has given me a distinct piece of music, with reflections of lived experience, memory, creativity, analysis, passion. My poems are musical pieces. When I finished selecting the right poems for my title, I realized that I had written a musical or poetic memoir of my life, one that has adhered from a love of linguistic and historical analysis together with Art, Passion, Poetry.

Art, Passion, Poetry all play a part in each poem of this collection in a particular way, and usually in more than one way, often quite unanticipated. The poem’s title may or may not reveal the major theme or themes of that poem. There are often choices of ethics, aesthetics, sensuality, and even cultural and political values that readers may be obliged to make to arrive at a conclusion near or far from the poet’s.

This is because Barbara Sher Tinsley believes that poetry places at least as much responsibility on the reader as on her own shoulders, while recognizing in a profound way that the transmission of any poem is a shared task, one of decoding the artistry and passion of each offering.

She also engages her readers in conversations as significant to our human experience – whether creative or procreative or merely sensuous – as others that contribute to our economic, educational, professional, or mental well-being. Readers will discover that art, poetry, and passion are really one.

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Streaming Consciousness

TinsleyCoverWebWhat motivated/inspired you to write this book?

Reflecting on the diverse experiences of life: a grand marriage; foreign travel – we’ve lived in Paris, Florence, and southern Spain; teaching, painting, raising children, gardening, and practicing classical music; writing books on history, a novel, etc.; it struck me that my life has not only contained much art and striving for knowledge, but it has given me much to remember, to engage with, both with myself and my loved ones about our past, our present, and future.

Even streams store much along their banks, create sheltered coves and marshes, and, in a figurative sense, after resting, continue to make progress.

This collection of 115 poems draws on many themes, including: hope, famous literature (novelists, poets), ageing, romantic love, philosophers, ethics, protest, marriage, natural beauty, childhood, education, ekphrastic poetry, and poetics.

This book is largely autobiographical. I seem to be piecing out my life like a colorful “quilt,” a pattern not found in quilting books, but recognizable by others. Sharing one’s life is another form of teaching, and I always thought that a noble profession. I have found no real obstacles, since I regard life’s lessons very similar to those we teachers teach our students, using history or literature for material.

I accumulated this material through conscious living, long years of studying literature, history and several foreign languages, reflecting on the diverse experiences of life. I usually write at night. I think of an object or experience, reach for my pen and paper, and the poem emerges: sometimes in as little as five minutes.

“Streaming consciousness,” a term recognized since the mid-l9th century, was defined as an interior monologue or unedited continuous chronological flow of the mind’s conscious experience.

The author regards these pieces as edited interior dialogues, for a monologue would not produce such varying perspectives. But stream these poems do, as do thoughts, actions, memories. The reader will note that many describe the “lives” of rivulets, streams, and rivers, and how they affect the poet before they eventually empty into the sea, which may be viewed as the vast ocean of human experience, i.e., life. The ocean represents life, since life began there.

The poet views hope, as in her poem “Aspiration,” as a chance to win the best things in life (idealism), just as early man hoped to learn how to clothe himself by making boots for cold weather in “Footwear: A History.”

“In Dubious Battle,” farm workers hope for justice in terms of respect and fair wages.

“Pen and I” conveys hope by artistic creation. Other themes include intimacy, education, childhood, sensitivity, frustration, governmental and social injustice, nature, family relationships, social protest. Not all her poems treat only what their titles suggest; each
poem contains some surprise content.

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About the Author

TinsleyWebPicBarbara Sher Tinsley Ph.D. (Stanford, ’83), is a Fulbright Fellow who published works in Reformation Studies/Early Modern Europe. Having taught history, French, and English for many years, she turned to creative writing, producing her first novel: Candida’s Own Italian Renaissance; A Sensuous Journey Through Time (2015) and her first book of poetry Art, Passion, Poetry (SBPRA), (2015).