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Judith Barrington was born in Brighton, England in 1944, lived in London in 1963 and then again from 1967 to 1976, having lived in Spain in the years between. She moved to Portland, Oregon in 1976 where she has made her home ever since.

Virginia's Apple, a collection of fourteen memoirs, will be published by OSU Press in September, 2024. She is the author of five poetry collections, two poetry chapbooks, a prizewinning memoir, and a bestselling text on writing literary memoir. The poetry books are: Long Love: New and Selected Poems, 1985–2017; The Conversation; Horses and the Human Soul; History and Geography; and Trying to be an Honest Woman. The chapbooks are: Lost Lands and Postcard from the Bottom of the Sea. She has recorded a CD of selected poems titled Harvest. Prose books are: Lifesaving: A Memoir and Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art. Click here for more including reviews.

Her work has been included in many anthologies, including The Long Journey: Pacific Northwest Poets, The Stories That Shape Us: Twenty Women Write About the West, A Formal Feeling Comes, From Here We Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poetry, The House on Via Gombito, and Hers 3. Her poems and memoirs have been published in many literary journals, including Creative Nonfiction, Narrative Magazine, Prairie Schooner, Americas Review, Kenyon Review, ZYZZVA, The American Voice, Poetry London, 13th Moon, The GSU Review, Sonora Review, and The Chattahoochee Review.

In 2013 she was awarded the Gregory O'Donoghue International Poetry Prize and was a guest reader at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival in Ireland. Her other awards include the Lambda Book Award, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir, the Sonora Review Annual Nonfiction Award the Andrés Berger Award for Creative Nonfiction, the Dulwich Festival International Poetry Contest, and, with her partner Ruth Gundle, the 1997 Stewart H. Holbrook Award for outstanding contributions to Oregon's literary life. Four of her books were finalists for the Oregon Book Award. In 2003 she was short-listed for Writer of the Year Award, London, U.K.

She has been recognized as one of Oregon’s most important writers. In 2005, Trying to Be an Honest Woman was selected by Literary Oregon for “One Hundred Books, 1800 – 2000.” In 2009, Horses and the Human Soul was selected by the Oregon State Library for “150 Books for the Sesquicentennial” from among books by Oregon writers, 1836 – 2009. 

Much sought after as a writing teacher, over the past forty years she has taught creative writing and given readings at various universities, arts festivals, and summer writing programs around the U.S., the U.K., Spain, and Mexico. To see a representative list, click here. She was on the faculty of the low residency MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She worked for the Artists in the Schools Programs of Oregon and Washington during the 1980s and 90s.

She has been a feminist activist since the early days of the women’s movement in the U.K where she worked at the Women’s Liberation Workshop in London. When she moved to Oregon she taught Women’s Studies at Portland State University, helped organize marches and protests, and was the staff person for the Oregon Women’s Commission. She was active in the “Women in Print Movement” that began in the early eighties, contributing interviews, book reviews and her own creative writing to feminist magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and U.K. In 1983 the Oregon Women’s Political Caucus awarded her the Jeanette Rankin Award.

She became a gay rights activist too, beginning in the 1990s, when the Oregon Citizens’ Alliance started introducing its “Abnormal Behaviors Initiatives” as ballot measures. In recognition of her op-ed pieces for The Oregonian and her riveting speeches to diverse audiences she was given the ACLU Foundation of Oregon’s Freedom of Expression Award in 1994.

She is the co-founder of The Flight of the Mind Writing Workshops, which for seventeen years provided two week-long sessions on the McKenzie River, Oregon, bringing together outstanding teachers and participants from all over the U.S. She is one of the founders of Soapstone, a grassroots organization that supports and celebrates women writers.

She has collaborated with many artists including, in 2011, with sculptor Steve Tilden to create a metal sculpture and a sequence of poems for an exhibition of work focused on horses, shown at the Blackfish Gallery in Portland, with a reading and discussion. In 1999 she collaborated with New York sculptor Nancy Azara on an artist's book, providing a long poem in six parts entitled “Passages.” The work was exhibited at Soho's Donahue/Sosinski Gallery in New York and praised by the New York Times. The book was also shown at the Froelick Gallery in Portland in 2001. Other collaborations include writing the librettos for Mother of Us All (released on CD from Omni Records) and Dreamers: A Winter Solstice Extravaganza, both with music by David York. Several of Barrington's poems have been set to music by composers including Salvador Brotons, Margaret Moore, and Christopher Michael Wicks.

Her translations include: Two poems translated from the Portuguese, fado songs, “Lisboa Oxalá” by Nuno Júdice and “Maria Lisboa” by David Mourão-Ferreira, in Saudade: An Anthology of Fado Poetry, ed. Mimi Khalvati (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation) and poetry by Uruguayan poet, Cristina Peri Rossi published in Translation Magazine.