One might think that a poet such as I would have a file brimmed with blurbs regarding my many years of practicing my arts - but ‘tizant so. I have a milk carton full of references and reviews mostly about the Garden Project, but my writing and artistry have missed the critic’s barb.
Why do I write? is a pretty tall essay assignment, even if permitted to make it short. Most of what I can offer is the back cover of “The Snake…” by Kali Tal - who published the book. (She also worked putting the Holocaust Museum together (in DC), and has written and published a number of books illustrating how child-abuse leads to violence and warfare, prostitution, and death through self medication. I’m proud to be on her list of how to stop it.
Sometimes I feel we’re all at the movies waiting for the big end-of-life disaster flick, but are still watching the cartoons. On the other hand, like the gone Billy Preston said: “Trying hard to make it real compared to what we got.” is the only job worth doing.
My books, along with my American Tanka banners, can be found at the Guild Gallery in Kerby, OR, and I am the featured artist at the Manley Art Center in Brookings the month of August. 2015
Dan Barker, initiator of American Tanka (poetry banners) and founder of the Home Gardening Project, is a poet, artist, and novelist. He began writing poetry while in the South China Sea on a troop ship departing DaNang at the end of 1965. The following years took him to readings in coffee houses, colleges, radio stations, teach-ins and antiwar rallies. He was published in many West Coast literary magazines.
Retreating the San Francisco State University riots in ‘70, he began publishing mystic lyric verse and short stories in other literary magazines, including Northwest Quarterly, Berkeley Barb, Portland Today, Wind Horse Review, & Antioch Review among many others. His Vietnam novel, Warrior of the Heart, was published by Burning Cities Press in ‘91, and re-issued in ’09 as The Snake That Became A Tiger. Regular White Guys, Queen Jane, Poems and Essays, and Building Free Vegetable Gardens for People in Need<em/em> were published in ‘09.
In the 80’s, finding readings and print inadequate to the presentation of the radiance of mystic thought, he began creating American Tanka (poetry banners). The form is loosely based on Tibetan Thangha. Using silks, satins, metallic threads (Upavita – the thread that connects all souls), semiprecious stones and pearls to frame the thought-essence of the great mystics, often presented on handmade paper or in gold-leaf, the artist extends joy to the world.
Dan Barker is currently publishing, making and showing American Tanka, and is the director of the Home Gardening Project Foundation. After building 1400 free raised-bed vegetable gardens for low-income households in Portland’s disenfranchised neighborhoods from the ‘80s through the 90s, he established the HGP as a contributing foundation. Thousands upon thousands of free vegetable gardens have been built on the HGP model.
Notice of his work has appeared in National Geographic, Utne Reader, Smithsonian Magazine, The Congressional Record, Der Plunkt, The Sun, Organic Gardening Magazine, Rain, Catholic Digest, Reader’s Digest, Biography, Who’s Who, Australia Broadcasting Company, NPR, KATU, KPTV, ABC TV’s Home Show and Good Morning America, Chicken Soup for the Gardeners Soul, among a host of others, and has been given Renew America’s 8th annual National Environmental Sustainability Award, along with a grant from the Rodale Institute (4/’98). He was selected as one of Utne Reader’s 100 American Visionaries in ‘95.
Dan’s American Tankas and his books can be found at the Guild Gallery in Kerby, Oregon. He lives with his wife, Cynthia Cheney, on five acres of madrone woodland near the Upper Applegate River.