Barbara Moraff

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Barbara Moraff is an American poet of the Beat generation. She is currently living in Vermont. She continues to write, but also creates as a potter and cook.[1]

Barbara Moraff was referred to by Jack Kerouac as "the baby of the Beat generation" because she was 18 when they met and was already being published by Leroi Jones and in Evergreen Review. She was reading in various NYC coffeehouses when she was able to get out of her very restricted home environment -- complicated by needing hospitalization for plastic surgery to repair a torn-away face. Kerouac in a 1964 interview with Paideuma (University of Maine) called Moraff "the best girl poet writing in America."

After 15 plastic surgery operations, Barbara moved to Vermont in late 1961 with her lover. They built a small one-room cabin on a mountainside above a waterfall on land belonging to a former Black Mountain College student with whom they exchanged work for rent. At that time Barbara was experimenting writing SOUND poetry (see Denise Levertov article, Virginia Quarterly, aligning Moraff, Duncan, Creeley, Olson).

Barbara's first child, Alesia, was born in 1966 and shortly afterward Barbara bought a remote hilltop farm in Strafford, Vermont, using the few thousands of dollars left over from her surgeries. She taught herself organic farming practices and for many years raised her family's food and raised a cow for milk, plus two goats; made cheese; and studied medicinal herbs and all that was "in her face" so to speak and natural and "concrete." Her son Marco was born in 1971 and in 1972 was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, of which he would die in April 2007 after a remarkable life as an artist, chef, and member of Vermont's Buddhist community.

In 1973 Barbara founded Vermont Artisans, a craft sales and educational cooperative, Vermont's first (she says). Barbara studied human nutrition in health and disease and after 3 years of research devised a nutritional plan for Marco. Wanting to share it with other fibrocystic children, she wrote THE COOKBOOK/HANDBOOK TO NUTRITION FOR KIDS WHO HAVE CYSTIC FIBROSIS. In those days it was considered crazy to even discuss the problems of nutrition, let alone write a cookbook for children whose bodies cannot metabolize any food nutrients without peg enzymes added orally at meals. Barbara self-published the book, and the CF Foundation has a copy, as do some forward-looking physicians who used her commonsense method that emphasized the sane approach of telling one's child that it is his/her body that is ill, not the child-as-person.

In short, Barbara devoted her life to her children and started writing poetry again in 1976 when asked by a women's feministlesbian press to sit on its editorial board. While relating with that group, she edited the magazine CONCH and co-edited an anthology of local women's writings and art. This included the first published work of Louise Erdrich (who then went by the name of Karen) -- a few poems.

Barbara met Chogyam Trungpa in 1974 through Allen Ginsberg. She had the idea that Tibetan buddhists would know a lot about breathing and that she could learn from Trungpa practical methods that she could then use to help Marco grow and develop strong lungs, which might be more resistant to the early onset ravages of CF. Trungpa did not respond to her request and refused to allow her to take refuge when she returned a year later, convinced of the value of mediation practice.

However, Marco grew healthy and ran long-distance track in high school. In college he majored in environmental studies and in his senior year began a double major in studio arts. Many of his paintings and sculptures are now in private collections. He also designed and built furnituyre using driftwood, branchwood, marble, and slate.

Alesia, who does not have CF, took her own path. She accelerated and graduated from high school with national honors in Latin at age 16.

Barbara continued her buddhist practice and study and eventually attended the last seminary at which Trungpa was present, and later the ngedon school.

Currently (2007) she is editing and collating a collection of prevously published and unpublished work and is also working on a new collection (tentative title Machig Labdron Songs). Forthcoming in late spring 2007 is a booklet from Longhouse Publishers, FOOTPRINT. 

Barbara has been partially disabled for 11 years but is still able to produce some pottery, thanks to a grant from the Peter Goldfarb Foundation resulting in a motorized wheel and small kiln. Mostly she makes dinner sets on commission. In summers she bakes wholegrain sourdough breads and vends them at local farmers' markets. She lives with a fierce Mahakala German Shepherd named Karmic, who loves music and loves to kiss; he also likes to learn new words and is very word/language susceptible. Here is one of the Machig poems:

Machigma to Chundrak Dorje (Steven Seagal)

Well, I've given up on time It's overrated & simplicity? a few wild with domesticated flowers in a simpatico vase.

A letter arrives postmarked April in July, my month. Got lost. Got found. Found my box. Well, it's about Stanley. Stanley died. Of a self-inflicted life. & someone shot his Beagle. That dog was his life. Petra says she finds traces he left in the woods he loved but wonders why he drug a wagonwheel upside Boomer Mountain & left it leaning on his mother's grace stone instead of flowers even plastic & why he left backseat of the old blue Valiant just inside the line of balsams facing my old house. Well, he had to keep an eye on the hippies he believed we were because only crazy hippies would hv come on purpose to thse woods back of nowhere. I think I left someething there also, like a poem about Stan & his Percherons sugaring in the cathedral of the cold Spring trees. oh it was real

Copyright Barbara Moraff 2006

Barbara's publishers: Toothpaste Press, Potes & Poets Press, Longhouse, Coffeehouse Press, White Pine Press, O'Leary Family, Nomad London, Totem-Corinth (4 Young Lady Poets), Snakestail/High risk (A Different Beat), and the usual "many magazines & journals" & antholgies including Evergreen Revew, Yƶgen, Trobar, Kauri, Femora, Fuckyou, Beatitude, Bluebeat, Beat Scene, The Nation, Yale Penny Poems, Virginia Quarterly, Origin, Longhouse, Wormwood Review, Rosebud, Cedar Rock, Plucked Chicken, Wildflower, Van Gogh's Ear, Valley News, L.A. Weekly, Vajradhaty Sun, Sulfur, Cipher Journal, Abraxas, Bloodroot, et. Barbara also appears in two movies: an anti-war film Button, Button (aired on CBS) and Enlightened Society (Vajradhatu Films).

This article was provided by Barbara Moraff on March 17, 2007, and typed here by BethPoet on April 23, 2007.


  • Deadly Nightshade (Morning Coffee Chapbook), Coffee House Press 1989
  • You've got me (Scout), Longhouse 1987
  • Contra La Violencia, White Pine Press 1985
  • Telephone company repairman poems, Toothpaste Press 1983
  • Mister, Penny poems 1952
  • Learning to Move
  • Open to the Other
  • Potterwoman
  • Potterwoman Book 2
  • A Single Branch, A Single Flower Enough
  • Lotus Petals
  • Ahh
  1. ^ Daniel Kane (2003). All Poets Welcome: the Lower East Side poetry scene in the 1960s. University of California Press. ISBN 0520233840. 
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