Like to the Lark

Stuart’s second book, Like to the Lark, was published by Upswell Publishing in 2023.

Like to the Lark is available from Abbey’s Bookshop, Amazon, Angus & Robertson, Avenue Bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Books Direct, Booktopia, Collins Booksellers, Cook & Young, Dymocks, Fullers Bookshop, Gleebooks, Hares & Hyenas, Harry Hartog, Kobo, Neighbourhood Books, The Nile, Not Just Books, Open Book, Paperback Bookshop, QBD, Rabble Books & Games, Readings, The Sun Bookshop and Upswell.

In December 2022 Stuart talked with Meesha Williams about Like to the Lark for The Upswell Podcast. You can listen to Parts 1 and 2 of their conversation on Spotify and on Apple.

In January 2023 Stuart talked with Rob McDonald about Like to the Lark for the Queer Writes Sessions podcast. You can listen to their conversation on SoundCloud.

Added at the end of Like to the Lark is Stuart’s Notes on Form (TW: rape, HIV) in which he writes about music and sound, form and transformation, which underpin the collection. Publisher Terri-ann White has kindly reproduced Notes on Form at Upswell’s website.

Like To The Lark is Stuart Barnes’ poetic Back to Mine, an accumulation of lifetime fascinations with music and sound, form and transformation. Beginning with an apparition of a doomed world brooding over itself and ending with a kvelling globe, this long-awaited second collection from the winner of the 2015 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize plunges—‘What a plunge!’ (‘What a lark!’)—into seas, scoots across countries and hurtles towards space. Ghazal shapeshifts into pantoum, duplex, sonnet, sestina, terminal and more plus two new forms invented by Barnes—terse-set and flashbang. As influenced by popular culture as they are by classical mythology, these poems—by turns playful, serious, tender, bold, surprising and witty—are fearless in their explorations of rape, illness, death, remembrance, ecology, love and joy. While ‘Fog / and Grief preen’ over a serodiscordant gay couple, a phoenix-like Royal Poinciana declares ‘My breath is rooted in kindness’. Forged from and framed by conversations with Nick Drake, Gwen Harwood, Sylvia Plath, Shakespeare, Robert Smith and others, Barnes’ poems sparkle with vivid lyricism and wild inventiveness, and summon great care for the way they tend and transmute trauma and illuminate the resilience of human and non-human beings.’

I don’t think I’ve read a more joyful collection by a contemporary poet in a very long time. Like to the Lark is suffused with the joys of the world, or with the joys of a subject’s relationship with the world. The book is also about the joys of verse-making: who else, but Stuart Barnes, would so effortlessly rhyme ‘Macbeth’ with ‘bitter meth’, or have so much fun writing such difficult forms as the sestina, the ghazal, or the sonnet? Reader, be prepared to have an experience that one does not often associate with contemporary poetry: prepare to enjoy yourself! Ali Alizadeh

Stuart Barnes holds space with words. With intimate knowing and acute sensitivity, he mindfully casts fragments of intense pleasure and pain to manifest beautiful lives beyond survival, recovery, and healing, through a stunning array of poetic form. Like to the Lark fashions a tender, playful, and wrenching relationality through nostalgia, trauma and beauty, so that we too can cry with black cockatoos at the world’s unrest and sing with the moon, wind and trees, and that first light rising with the break of day. Natalie Harkin

Under the queer mirror ball of the moon and sunlight’s blazing scalpel, Stuart Barnes shows us a degraded world that looks ‘like death warmed up’ while asserting that love will always be the ‘vivider figure’. But doubt is never far away, as the poet asks how poems of love can exist in a context of homophobia, sexual violence and cultural amnesia around AIDS. The cry of the smalltown boy rises, but in brilliant counterpoint with the mature poet, whose technical bravura, intertextual wit and long view inform this incandescent, moving collection. A. Frances Johnson

Alive with bravura queer energies, constrained loquacity and formal ambition, Stuart Barnes’ Like to the Lark is a vibrant study in sophisticated provincialism. At once restless and arresting, urgent and laconic, Barnes playfully mines the resources of set form, refrain and repetition in this skilful, original and affecting lyric collection. Kate Lilley

Rich with puns, rhyme and assonance, roving from ghazal to acrostic to prose poem, and with references ranging from Greek myth to Auden and Kate Bush, Stuart Barnes’ Like to the Lark queers language while freewheeling gloriously between traditions. But more than a masterclass in wordplay and citation, this collection offers a poignant, often explicit portrait of growing up and discovering sexuality in a sometimes brutal world where ‘five men nearly broke me like a wishbone’. Moving between wit and grievance in the wake of trauma, Barnes, like the moon he so often cites, is a virtuosic ‘Sinker of cliché / in cumulous seas’. Anthony Lynch

Stuart Barnes’ poetry forges a unique path, expertly threading its way along the dividing line between vulnerability and rage, beauty and ugliness, the natural world and the synthetic, the old and the new, the sacred and profane, form and chaos. Risk-taking, moving, funny—always surprising—Barnes’ poetry will remind you what it is to be alive. Maria Takolander