Ever since Christine Barbour was a young girl, she knew she wanted to write. As an elementary student at St. Elizabeth’s she started off by writing prayers, which she would then read aloud at home to her parents.
“They’d look at me like I had two heads, wondering where I was getting this from,” she recalls, laughing. “It was definitely my beginning as a writer.”
Today, she still lives in the same Woodhaven house she grew up in and she’s still writing. Christine Barbour will be the next resident featured in the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society’s series of local artist showcases.
Barbour’s showcase will take place on Tuesday, May 11, at 8 p.m.,via Zoom and Facebook. If you would like to attend, please email us at [email protected] for an invite to this free event.
Later on in her childhood, Barbour began collecting her writings in a series of diaries or journals.
“I kept everything in them,” she said. “I was writing poetry, but I didn’t know then that this is what I needed to do.”
It wasn’t until she went to Queens College that she realized poetry was her destiny. “I wanted to sign up for a Creative Writing course and I picked poetry and that was it,” she said. “I soon knew that this was what I had to do.”
After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree at Queens College, Barbour felt like she wasn’t finished. And so, she signed up for two years of poetry classes at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree.
After a stint teaching reading and math at the Adult Learning Center in the Elmhurst Library, Barbour founded Iron Horse Poetry (previously named the Woodhaven Poetry Society), a free two-hour workshop of poetry craft and writing.
She also sponsored a school-wide poetry contest for grades two through eight at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Academy.
These days, Barbour is turning her attention back to her writing, currently working on two books.
One is a 40-page chapbook titled “Frozen, Alive with Fire.” The other is a full-length book titled “The Sudden Shock of Lightning.” Both books will be self-published.
“Walt Whitman self-published because he couldn’t get published,” Barbour said. “This is an avenue to at least get your work out there.”
One of the poems that will be discussed in her showcase is called “The Shoemaker’s Glue,” a piece that is drawn from Barbour’s childhood memories of growing up in Woodhaven.
“It’s about two shoemakers in Woodhaven,” she explains. “And both of them had tattoos.”
As a child, Barbour had wondered what the tattoos were, and eventually found out that they came from their time in concentration camps during World War II. The piece is written in a child’s voice and Barbour considers it one of her favorite poems.
“I have a lot of favorite poems, but rarely poems in their entirety,” she explained. “Sometimes I love the ending or there’s a stanza in the middle that gets me charged up.
“To me, my poems are like cats,” she added. “You can have a lot of cats, but not all of them are 100 percent great. They have their own personalities, and some parts of their characters are awesome and some are downright bitchy. My poems are kind of like that!”
Another way of getting your work out there is though public readings or open mic events, but it takes time to get used to reading your work before a live audience. Barbour’s first public reading took place while in college, an experience she recalls as “horrible.”
“Thank God they had a podium because I was shaking everywhere,” she said.
But when she got to the end of the poem and heard the audience’s reaction, she knew she had something and never looked back. Since then, Barbour has won over 15 poetry writing contents and has read her work at poetry events throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island.
Come join us next week as this award-winning Woodhaven poet shares her talents with her community. And for any other artists out there in Woodhaven, if you’d like to take part in our showcase series, please reach out to us at wood[email protected]. We would love to make your acquaintance.