Featured SwEP author: Kevin Barger

Swimming with Elephants Publications, LLC would like to reintroduce to you to Kevin Barger.

Kevin Barger has been a SwEP author since 2015 when his collection, Observable Acts, was published.

Observable Acts had the distinction of ranking up into the top 10 selling poetry collections in its category the week it was release.

“Observable Acts” is an amazing collection of poetry! It moved me and touched my soul. At every page, the ink all but leaped off the page as I learned of the author’s life and points of view. Each poem is artfully crafted and elicits an emotional response in the reader. Read and learn, dear people. Tell your friends and tell your families. Teach this book in your high schools and universities. Kevin Barger’s first foray into the published word is a great success, and I’m hoping to see more.

Review by Brady Reece
via Amazon Customer Reviews

Order Kevin’s book Observable from Amazon or Barnes and Noble today!


Kevin Barger

Kevin BKevin Barger is a performance poet, writer, and retired slam organizer based in Asheville, NC. He was instrumental in bringing slam poetry back to popularity in Asheville after its rise, fall, and subsequent misfirings in the area by helping to lay the groundwork for Poetry Slam Asheville from 2008 through 2011. He has also appeared on many other stages in and around the Carolinas including the Lake Eden Arts Festival, Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival, the Individual World Poetry Slam, and Southern Fried in which he was on the first team from Asheville sent to Southern Fried in nearly a decade. Now, semi-retired from the slam scene but itching to get back on stage again, he has compiled old favorites and new material in Observable Acts; his first endeavor onto the published page.

SwEP Author Spotlight: July’s author spotlight is Kevin Barger

July’s author spotlight is Kevin Barger

SwEP is spotlighting an author each month to find out what they are working on now and in the near future. Interviews are written and conducted by SwEP author, Gina Marselle. Ms. Marselle was lucky enough to catch up with Mr. Kevin Barger, as he was preparing to leave on tour from Asheville, N.C. to Washington, D.C. from July 6 to 12, 2017.

Kevin’s book, Observable Acts, is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and by contacting the author.


This interview was conducted by phone on July 3, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. eastern time.


Greetings all,

Our first SwEP author spotlight is Performance Poet, Kevin Barger, who is currently on tour with a Poetry Cabaret in Washington, D.C. from July 6 through July 12, 2017 (for more information or for tickets: https://www.capitalfringe.org/events/1135-poetry-cabaret).

Barger is the author of Observable Acts: A Collection of Poetry published by SwEP in 2015. Barger’s works can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Observable-Acts-Kevin-Barger/dp/0692404554 or through SwEP or by contacting the author in person or through Facebook.


Tell us a little about your background in slam and performance poetry?

I met Spoken-Word and Visual Artist, Moody Black around 2008ish and was interested in his work. Black can be seen on All Def Poetry [see Black perform In The Field: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU0zGh9aSQs&t=49s]. He hosted the first slam I competed in. Slam in Asheville, N.C. use to be a big thing before I got involved. In Asheville, when slam first started, it flourished but then it died. It went through a few cycles of popularity.  It may have kept dying because Asheville is an artsy and nonjudgmental city and slam is judgmental—I mean we compete for scores and placement. People aren’t as interested in that. When I took over the slam in Asheville the Slammaster was on his way out and he left the slam responsibilities to me. I created a board of people to help run it and our slam became pretty popular, but then it began to take over my life. I was no longer concentrating on my own writing and performance. I was always promoting other poets and the slam scene in Asheville. Slam was my life from 2008 to 2011 [a number of Barger’s poems are on YouTube from this time period]. Eventually, a boyfriend brought it to my attention that I was no longer writing for self. I was like an addict, slam had become my addiction—my boyfriend encouraged me to stop and write for myself, to share my work for me and not for points. It made sense. Now, I concentrate on performance poetry, for the most part.


What were you like in school?

I was the really shy, fat kid that every one would pick on. Writing would allow me to escape. Once, in third grade, I wrote a book for a school assignment—a mystery, maybe about a lost shoe. It wasn’t very good but it was epic, and the shoe was eventually found at the dump. It was a hardbound book put together with duct tape. You know, I don’t ever remember not writing. In middle school, I entered a contest to have a poem published. It was a scam. I realize that now, but it was published on a plaque and the company wanted to sell my family a bunch of stuff along with the plaque. It was obviously a scam, eventually the sent my parents back the check they wrote the company. My parents still have the plaque and they appreciate it, but it really was a horrible poem. Mostly, I avoided school. I would eat lunch in the library. In high school, I was writing poetry—I came out in high school as bisexual my senior year. I dated a girl in high school and after for seven years, actually. But in high school, we would write poems to each other, as notes to hand off during homeroom class or in the halls. We didn’t pay too much attention in class, as we were writing these notes back in forth to each other. She stopped writing eventually, and I didn’t. When our relationship ended, I started writing more professionally. She stopped writing after high school, she just didn’t write—it wasn’t her thing—it was mine, and now, here I am.

Why do you write?

I write for catharsis, to empty myself. Once it is out of me and on a page, it is no longer mine—if someone else can connect to it then that is valuable as well, but at the end of the day, I am writing for catharsis.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?

I use to have a leather bound journal and wrote with a pencil to edit as I wrote. Probably shouldn’t have done that, but I did it anyway—now I type on the computer. I can’t keep a new poem in my head—I have to write it down.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I am a serious writer. I don’t completely think of myself as a professional writer, but I do take it more seriously than most who write as a hobby. Any art you do for catharsis is really, really valuable. Once you start to make a name for yourself, the level changes and it becomes serious and important. Writing isn’t my whole life, I’m like the guy who comes and mows your lawn and sometimes I get paid—I might earn $10 bucks selling a book or really, I’m more likely to give you a book. Now, Neil Gaimen, author of American Gods, basically says you have to write all the time to be a writer, you can’t wait to be inspired—you have to write—I am not that strict of a writer.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I never really made a decision to become a “writer,” as I’ve always written.  It is just a label that helps to make up me. I also make pottery sometimes, which makes me a “potter,” or I go hiking which makes me a “hiker.” It’s just a label that describes something I do sometimes.  I think I am in the minority here by not buying into the mystique surrounding the term “writer.” I write poetry. I perform poetry.  It is a label, but it doesn’t define me. I am gay, but that also doesn’t define me. Since I was in a relationship with a woman for seven years—there are things we do that fall outside the labels we adopt.  There are a lot of labels to define us, but they should never confine us. We should celebrate all the things we do instead of just clinging to one.

Which writers inspire you?

So when I first started performance poetry I was really intrigued by Patricia Smith, Taylor Mali, Moody Black, and Rives. Rives is an amazing poet, he is godly. I recommend his TEDtalk Mockingbirds Remix2006 to everyone [it can me found: https://www.ted.com/talks/rives_remixes_ted2006/transcript?language=enn]. I am also inspired by Dorothy Parker (she wrote gossipy poetry) and Langston Hughes; I love writers from the 1920s, not sure why—I just do.

What are you working on at this minute?

Right now I am really excited about the Poetry Cabaret Collective that I will be performing with in D.C. It is a mish mash of music, poets, dancers, even a fire-eater—It is a fun show! My ambition is to discover fun ways to get my voice out there. I am a performance poet and I enjoy that aspect of my work right now. With the Poetry Cabaret I can do this. We did a lot of fundraising for this tour from a Zombie festival to a kickstarter. Now we are all traveling together—15 of us to D.C. We will perform in D.C. from the 6th through the 12th at The Capital Fringe Festival: https://www.capitalfringe.org/. Eventually, our hopes are to take this show on the road.

Note: The show is made up of the following artists (taken from Facebook events page):

Chief Creative and Director: Caleb Beissert

Music Director: Aaron Price

Poets: Kevin Evans, Justin William Evans, Justin Blackburn, Kevin Barger, Michael Coyle, Caleb Beissert

Dance Artists: Hester Prynncess, Union J, Tom Scheve

Musicians: Aaron Price, Polly Panic, Max Melner


How did you get involved with the Poetry Cabaret?

Caleb Beissert invited me. I met him through the slam poetry scene.  He hosted an open mic I would go to recruit poets for the slam.

I consider myself a page poet, doing what you do is admirable—performing for crowds of people and participating in slams, festivals, and now this Poetry Cabaret show. I certainly admire stage poets. Even though, I don’t like to say (or label) stage verses page poet, but there is a difference. As a performance poet, how do you differentiate a stage poet from say a page poet like myself?

I agree there is a difference between stage and page poetry and spoken word and slam and performance, really. I think page writers worry about grammar and form—whereas stage, we worry more about sound of words and how powerful we can get something across. I don’t call myself a slam poet anymore, I love slam, will perform it, it was just detrimental to my writing. But, I don’t perform for points anymore—it was a competition and a strategy was always needed—in slam we are trying to one up the person who came before us. When I performed slam, I was not writing for myself, I was writing to score points. Don’t get me wrong, I love slam. The Slam community has a big family and slam helped become the person I am today. Going through that fire—is amazing. But years doing it can be difficult; there is so much work involved from the competition itself to the work in putting together shows—it is life consuming. On the other hand, performance poetry allows me to write for myself and perform on the stage. I have a lot of freedom to take risks because I’m not being scored. Really, say, if someone gives you a six, your soul is crushed…and then you second-guess yourself and your ability. The first slam I remember performing in I won, and it gave me an ego boost—I didn’t always win, but I did that time. Then I performed more and made a name for myself. I performed in festivals and people recognized my work and it was awesome when people came up afterward saying they loved my work…yet, with slam there is self-doubt, but at the end of the day it is really a love fest. One thing about stage poetry is after performing a poem there is immediate validation for who you are as a writer and performer. If you are in classroom setting or in a workshop editing a page poem then a lot of times people become critical and offer ways to improve your writing, grammar issues, etc. In the classes, I only saw my mistakes. Really, in thinking about it, poetry, at one point was something that could only be understood by academia and it killed the art form. Now, this is something that we poets are working on is that poetry needs to be for everyone so we all can read, write, and share. Poetry connects us through emotions—that is me talking as a stage poet. I don’t limit myself to form, but if I just want to get everything out on a page then I do, but ultimately, it is going to be performed.

What genre are your book(s)?

Poetry. I only have the one book.

What draws you to this genre?

I love poetry; it feels like something I have always done. The short form suits me. I like writing essays, too. I love reading fiction, however, my poems can be confessional. It can be dangerous because it can turn into your diary—it needs to be topic based. As the writer, we want empathy not sympathy from sharing our poetry. At first, I was a very political poet and shared poems about gay rights and issues. Lately, I’ve moved away from that to write more emotional things. I don’t box myself in.

How much research do you do?

Not a lot. It is more about how I feel in a moment.  If I am making a reference…I may research about that topic enough to make sure I get a specific line or thought right. My poem “Little Brother” is about the shooting of Lawrence King, and I really had to learn that story in order to make a larger point.  Mostly, though, I have an outpouring of words that I have to immediately write it down. Writing for me is kind of like trying to catch air.  I’ll lose a piece if I’m unable to get it on paper as soon as the thought occurs.  I don’t want to lose it so later I will go back to edit.

How do you edit your work?

I really have a difficult time finishing a poem. As far as editing, I show it to different people, and get feedback—then I edit. I will read it out loud and feel the words in my mouth and make sure that they sound like they belong together.  I don’t edit per se for grammar and such. I may write a poem and have a need to share it at a show. I just tell the audience, I just wrote this. Let me know what you think. Some poems I don’t share at all.

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.

Kat had a graphic designer for my book. I helped to decide the final look for the cover with feed back from others.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

I market myself by performing. I take my books with me. I am trying to figure out how to market myself better. I like to make sure my book is in my bio when being introduced. It is hard to market. I tried advertising online, but it wasn’t successful. Performing poems and having books available is the best way for me. I love the connection made when I hand a book over or sign a book to someone. Love having a book out, and selling a book, I am just as an apt to give a copy of my book away as I am at selling it.

Which social network works best for you? How can people connect with you?

Facebook is really the best way.

How many shows a year?

I maybe perform in three to four big shows each year—I’d like to do more. I try to show up at open mics, too, when I can.  There’s one hosted by Caleb, the host of the Poetry Cabaret, every Wednesday in Asheville that I get to sometimes.


If you would like to find more about Kevin Barger then please connect through SwEP or contact the author directly through Facebook or Facebook Messenger. Samples of his work are in his most current manuscript; Observable Acts: A Collection of Poetry (SwEP, 2015) https://swimmingwithelephants.com/ or you may find a sampling of his slam poetry online. Here is Kevin Barger performing “Lullabye” at the Asheville Poetry Slam at The Magnetic Field (January 2010): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu47N3zXhTs.





Interview Conducted By the Always Brilliant Gina Marselle

Gina Marselle, M.A.Ed, is a New Mexico educator who lives in Albuquerque with her husband and children. She has published poetic work with The Sunday Poem Online Series, in the Alibi, the Rag, SIC3, Adobe Walls: An Anthology of New Mexico Poetry, Catching Calliope, Fix and Free Poetry Anthology I and II, and La Palabra Anthology I and II. Aside from poetry, she is an accomplished photographer. Her photos of New Mexico poets have been featured in the Santa Fe Magazine, Trend (March, 2011). She also photographed the cover of Jessica Helen Lopez’ poetry book, Always Messing With Them Boys (West End Press, 2011), and has her photography featured in September: traces of letting go a poetry book by Katrina K Guarascio (Swimming With Elephants Publications, 2014). Finally, A Fire of Prayer: A Collection of Poetry and Photography is her first full-length manuscript (Swimming With Elephants Publications, 2015).


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Book Review: Observable Acts

Observable ActsObservable Acts: A Collection of Poetry

By Kevin Barger
Review by SaraEve Fermin

     This is a public service announcement to all my future
Come prepared…

I have a great appreciation for poets who hold nothing back in their writing, for poets who say exactly what they mean, who write narratives of their own heart and life.  The opening lines of Kevin Barger’s first collection of poetry do just that—let you know that you are holding not just a story, but a personal storytelling, almost a bloodletting.  In Public Service Announcement, Barger goes on to let readers know he has-

     …looked into the core of your soul
And found a light there
That they wish to make brighter.

Barger, a North Carolina native, has divided this collection into eight Observable Acts, which come together in the final poem of the book.  Each act sets the tone for the following section and covers a wide scope of topics including love, lust, sexuality, race and economics.  Most importantly, it is a study in words, and how we apply them to ourselves and others.

Observable Acts #3 bring us poems of love lost and what we can learn from them.  In Lessons, Barger brings Faith into the practice of love, something that people often forget that is missing but necessary–

This is a poem for those
Who have loved
And lost,
And wished to God they had never loved at all.

It is easy to forget that Barger was once a performance poet, as his writing is so sincere and does not seem to target a specific audience.  Still, there is a cadence that can be recognized here and there, a familiar pattern of words, a rhyme scheme that is not overt but flows throughout some of the poems, a graceful dance.

Love is a lot like religion
It requires faith to grow;
Belief I had plenty of
But faith I never showed.

In Lullaby, Barger states very clearly- ‘I don’t want to write this poem.’  It is the bloodletting that I mentioned earlier.  Some ghosts eat at us, fester and kill from the inside out.  Poetry is a balm for the soul because it so often allows us to create small wounds and let these ghosts out when necessary, allows us to create bonds with others and let them know they are not alone in their experiences and trauma–

I don’t want to write this poem
but I do want to tell this story
For the cathartic numbness to quiet
The pain of the child locked in me
And that child wants to write this poem
To be his lullaby
Not for the applause
Or for the scores
But for a thousand voices in a harmony of understanding
And he will sleep…

…I’ve said all the words.

Still, Barger apologies repeatedly for crimes of love and nature, crimes one cannot be charged for committing—crimes of the heart.  He apologies for a childhood he did not choose, and later, in Dear First Crush, he apologizes for the crime of wanting what one can never have.

I’m sorry for my wide eyed stare
And unwanted finger messing up your hair
But I swallowed my lungs every time you were near
Forcing my voice into
A mold that my misguided 18 year old self thought
Might somehow change you
Into the embodiment of my family

Observable Act #5 speaks to the climate of today’s society, is the most powerful of the micro-poems in the book, both as a writer and a human.

A shot
Destroyed a boy’s life
I cried
And then I wrote
And then I screamed

This micro-poem is followed by the poem Little Brother, a poem dedicated to Lawrence King, who died at age 15, victim of a hate crime for being openly gay.  He was shot to death in his computer lab by a fellow student, only 14 years old.  Barger writes–

We have grown complacent in imagined normalcy
They gave us a cable channel
And we felt equal
In a world where the phrase
That’s so gay
Is thrown around in everyday conversation
To deride that which is inferior
And the word faggot is justified by those
Who claim not to be homophobic
By announcing they just use it as a term for those they don’t
We have failed you

Barger insists on celebrations—celebration of the self, of love and acceptance, of who we are in this world.  He talks about life in North Caroline, a stifling upbringing and a straight-jacketed town where there is only one normal.  Still he proclaims that we are who we are, that we sing high praise to what we are made of and to stop fighting both the self and each other.  How else can we overcome tragedy if we don’t learn to celebrate ourselves and others?

Amen to all the heterosexuals.
Amen to all the homosexuals.
Amen to all bisexuals
Amen to all transsexuals
Amen to all try sexuals
Amen to all people
Of all sexual orientation

For God is all love…

…A philosophy based solely in belief and hatred
Has no right proclaiming who I should love

With Focus, he tells the reader to cast all doubt aside, to understand that lust is not so much an animalistic act but a human one, something that we return to—the touch, the need to connect to others, the way another person can level you with just a look.  Yes, sex can be a drug, but who are we to deny the need for companionship, the need to feel a warm body on the coldest nights?  Barger brings all these questions to light, surfaces the needs that drive us to unnamed faces and beautiful but sometimes devastating acts.

Focus on me now
And I’ll focus on you
Turning attention to the warmth of another body
In order to melt the chill of loneliness
That dragged me from bed
To bar
Then back again

Not all of these poems are a celebration.  There is mourning and loss scattered throughout the collection, a reminder that this is a fully fleshed manuscript, not a one sided conversation about buzz-worthy topics.  In the graceful but haunting Dementia (In Memory of Katherine), Barger uses repetition to echo the loss of memory and relationships one encounters when dealing with persons living with the disease that steals so much–

It’s lunch time now
And she wheels herself down the white halls
To the dining room
Forgetting that we spoke
But she’ll be back at my desk
In a couple of hours
And we’ll do this again

And it’ll be the first time I’ve heard it
Through all of this, Barger wants you to remember that we are all human.  That there is a thread that connects us, from the blood in our veins, the air in our lungs, the love in our hearts and the emotions that drive our every impulse, we are connected in our humanity.  Barger strives to remind us of this, no more so in the poem Fingernails

And in our shared am-ness
We represent a universe
Constantly growing
And trying its best to shine
Light in its own darkness
By creating stars
And planets
And hearts

Observable Acts is an honest and refreshing collection of poetry.  It is a reminder that touch is necessary, that with just a few words, so much can be said, that we are here to do more than just observe.  It is a reminder that the mere act of being present is a celebration.


Book Reviews by SaraEve Fermin:

SaraEve is a performance poet and epilepsy advocate from New Jersey.  A 2015 Best of the Net nominee, she has performed for both local and national events, including the 2013 Women of the World Poetry Slam and for the Greater Los Angeles Epilepsy Foundation 2015 Care and Cure Benefit to End Epilepsy in Children. The Editor in Chief of Wicked Banshee Press, a Contributing Editor for Words Dance Magazine and Book Reviewer for Swimming With Elephants Publications,  her work can be found or is forthcoming in GERM Magazine, Words Dance Magazine, Drunk in a Midnight Choir and the University of Hell Anthology We Can Make Your Life Better: A Guidebook to Modern Living,, among others. Her first full length book, View From The Top of the Ferris Wheel, will be published be Emphat!c Press in 2016. She believes in the power of foxes and self publishing.  Learn more here: http://saraeve41.wix.com/saraevepoet

Welcome Kevin Barger to the SwEP Parade

Kevin B

Welcome Kevin!

Swimming with Elephants Publications is proud to introduce you an amazing new poet name, Kevin Barger.

After being a finalist in last June’s chapbook competition, Kevin’s book, Observable Acts, was chosen for publication and was released in late April of 2015 and is available through Amazon.com and other on line book distributors as well as local book stores in the ABQ area.

Observable ActsKevin Barger is a performance poet, writer, and retired slam organizer based in Asheville, NC. He was instrumental in bringing slam poetry back to popularity in Asheville after its rise, fall, and subsequent misfirings in the area by helping to lay the groundwork for Poetry Slam Asheville from 2008 through 2011. He has also appeared on many other stages in and around the Carolinas including the Lake Eden Arts Festival, Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival, the Individual World Poetry Slam, and Southern Fried in which he was on the first team from Asheville sent to Southern Fried in nearly a decade. Now, semi-retired from the slam scene but itching to get back on stage again, he has compiled old favorites and new material in Observable Acts; his first endeavor onto the published page.

Get a copy of Observable Acts today and stay updated on the Swimming with Elephants Publications web page for further news.