PINK MOON–a poetry chapbook review

Pink Moon
by Tina Barr
Jacar Press, 2024

reviewed by Bethany Reid

Pink Moon was the inaugural winner of the Jacar Press Editor’s Choice Award.

In a craft essay for The Great Smokies Review, Tina Barr describes juxtaposition in poems as “a way to enlarge the circle the poem makes.”

She elaborates:

Juxtaposition, like metaphor, thrills us because it allows us to compare or view one thing with or against another, enriching the way we see. It’s a kind of cubist pressure, in that the imagination breaks down how we normally see and reconstructs our vision in different ways.

She draws from William Carlos Williams, Yusef Komunyakaa, and other poets to illustrate juxtaposition’s usefulness as a craft technique, but she could, just as easily, have been describing her own poems. Consider the last lines of “Yellow Emperor,” a poem that takes us from faith healers to Cairo to a backhoe in (I assume) the poet’s backyard:

     My mother, the oyster of her. In her next life,

     she can bloom like a tulip, red, defiant, upright.
     She had the will of the trees. Water
     has the last word, all elements do, trees a multitude
     of gateways. Orion, knife at his belt, watches
     above poplars. We are safest in the black awe.

How did we get here? As Barr writes in her craft essay, “the poem refuses to account for itself, to usher us in by telling us how to read it.” Her poems do not present us with tidy meanings that we can instantly understand; they instead lead us to look for unexpected connections, connections we would not otherwise see. Oysters and tulip petals share a similar shape. The trees, like the tulips are “defiant, upright.” If trees are “a multitude / of gateways” is everything here a gateway? Water, Orion, with his threatening or protecting knife. Even the “black awe” of the night sky from which Orion watches us.

Over the arc of the book, multiple images are juxtaposed: a virus invading a body, snakes twined under a garden tarp, a husband who sneaks off to peep shows, cauterizing needles, wasps, brown recluse spiders. In the title poem, “Pink Moon,” we begin with ground phlox in a cemetery, then lilac and fuchsia, “lacy green sprung with color,” then “a half-moon of orange / Klonopin to send me over the edge. / No mantra can help, my brain inflamed / by a virus that, like a pink moss, has / outcropping all over my white matter.” Late in the same poem, a logger touches an electrical line and is jolted by electricity, setting us up for the closing, where menace zings:

     I stared over the slope into my fear;
     the buzz of pinks, oranges; the wrangling
     wire lurched, like a snake its head
     cut, still jerks and curls.

                                              Rain comes, air
     cooled over hundreds of acres,
     poplars black in night,
     the orange sliver, a moon that leaks.

I have never visited Appalachia, but reading the poems in Pink Moon I felt immersed in Barr’s landscape, exposed to its dangers (juxtaposed—always—to its mesmerizing delights). In the final poem, “Energies,” the lines lead us up a mountain to a tree of heaven, but also to “ground bees, tiny, yellow-striped,” and a “hole so deep” we can’t see all the way down. The final lines, surprising as they are, slide right into the circle of our attention—not instantly understandable, but beckoning us to understand: “My immune system is a broken hive. / Lies issue from a vast dark. Each sting blisters.”

Bethany Reid’s latest book of poetry, The Pear Tree: elegy for a farm was published on January 1st of this year. Her other books of poetry, include Sparrow, which won the 2012 Gell Poetry Prize, and Body My House (2018).  Her poems, essays, and short stories have recently appeared in One Art, Passengers, Persimmon Tree, Constellations, and elsewhere, and her chapbook, The Thing with Feathers, was published in 2020 as part of Triple No. 10 by Ravenna Press. Bethany and her husband live in Edmonds, Washington, near their three grown daughters; she  blogs about writing and life at .


Find Tina Barr at Jacar Press

“Juxtaposition: A Few Comments on Craft” by Tina Barr at The Great Smokies Review

Interview with Tina Barr at Mountain Xpress

YouTube with poets Tina Barr, Catherine Carter and Jane Craven




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