University of Pittsburgh

front page

A Poet’s Life

Written by Cara J. Hayden



When Gerald Barrax served in the U.S. Air Force during the 1950s, poetry was his solace and his passion. In his bunk, he would write free verse, sonnets, and other forms of poetry, using The Poet’s Handbook—which he found at a used bookstore—as his guide. Eventually he studied poetry in college and earned his master’s degree in English from Pitt. Since then, he has published six books of poetry, including Leaning Against the Sun, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. He also served as a professor at North Carolina State University for 27 years. This fall, Barrax (A&S ’69) received the 2009 North Carolina Award, the state’s highest civilian honor, in the literature category.