including links to videos, an interview, a concordance, etc

Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire
about this "ground-breaking" book:
what happened after the book was published
Vern Barnet

Next Program  --  Reader comment  --  How you can help   --  About the book   --  Chronology

I don't think Shakespeare ever intended for his private Sonnets to be published, but Thomas Thorpe got hold of them and printed them in 1609 anyhow. Because there is no reference to the Sonnets for almost thirty years, I think Shakespeare suppressed their publication.
     On the other hand, in 1855 Walt Whitman himself paid to have 800 copies of his now-famous Leaves of Grass printed -- long before self-publishing became fashionable with today's digital printing and the restrictive policies of corporate publishers. Whitman kept revising his book, edition after edition, the rest of his life. The first eddition named no author, and it was in places banned. Critics condemned it as filth (Whitman was fired from his job) and others praised its originality. 

My book has been called "ground-breaking" because never before have 154 fresh examples of the sonnet form, traditionally the medium for the exploration of the emotions and circumstances of love, been placed in a world-wide spiritual context, with so many dimensions of friendship and  sexuality, supported by glosses and other material for the reader to contemplate and enjoy.

This blog is a record of the publication of my book, Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire, praised by many (but Mike Huckabee has not yet seen it), and I hope that you will help get the word out about this book -- You can help

     My purpose is not to make money, as those of you who know me are keenly aware, but to further the idea that sexuality and spirituality are intimately related, and that the poetic form can chart the journey by which this truth can be discovered afresh.

So, if you're interested, let's start with a photo of me that day, Oct 3, 2015, that the printing arrived at my Westport house in Kansas City, MO. I was not prepared for the Saturday -- I expected it the following week. I don't know what the photo here shows about how I was feeling, but I can tell you after decades of writing, collecting, and then choosing the sonnets for this book, and then seeing the book with the notes and other material at last in print, and handsomely so, I felt I was at another turning point in my long career.

The next day, with citations from my book, I preached on 
"Do Christians Eat Flesh and Drink Blood?" at Rosedale Congregational-UCC Church, and several of the great folks there asked for copies of the book.

Then a couple weeks later, Oct 17, my friend John Gregory hosted a  wonderful celebration at his beautiful Hyde Park house. The weather was perfect: 

Following a brass fanfare, Shakespeare (Matt Rapport) decended on the grand stairway, Vern gave him a copy of his book, and Shakespeare (you can call me "Will") read a sonnet from Vern's new book to begin a short program at a private reception featuring delicious food by Soha El-Sherif, Elizabethan guitar music by Mac Childs, a setting for one of Vern's sonnets sung by baritone Matt Richardson, a short discription of the book and a sonnet read by Vern. John Gregory, host, welcomed everyone, and Jamie Rich announced a public book launch and signing Nov 16 Monday 7 pm at Unity Temple on the Plaza.

Thanks to Bill Pryor for the photo!

Another view stolen from David Nelson's Facebook page--

Shakespeare and others insisted I read a sonnet, but I refused to read the one Shakespeare requested (my #30) because he had just read his #73, so I read my #24, "Passage." 

One of the delights of the occasion was the music of professional guitarist and teacher Mac Childs who played from Elizabethan and other genres appropriate to the book.

The photo below shows Eric Riedel from Minneapolis and Vern surveying some of the delicacies Soha El-Sherif provided for the reception.

Below is a collage of some of the guests 
accidentally captured on a stationary video recorder:

The first book store in Kansas City to carry the book is the bookshop at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, the downtown Kansas City, MO Episcopal Cathedral. Here bookstore manager Ken W Stewart features the book with Larry McMullen who was the first to purchase the book from this vendor.

I'm grateful to videographer Bill Pryor for taping tenor Dr Joseph DeSota at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral 2015 October 18 as they prepared a video for YouTube of a musical setting I wrote for my sonnet "Ad Astra." 
     I almost identified Joey as a tenor-baritone because of the tune's wide range which he presents with such grace. Those who know about music more than I have commented especially about his skill in singing the difficult phrase "like calling minnow what is whale" and making it sound easy. On YouTube video 7 Joey sings the entire tune, 2 mnutes 10 seconds. Enjoy!
     The tune with text appears as the Frontispiece of the book, on page 4. The sonnet with notes appears on page 64. 
     And thanks to Jamie Rich whose ideas for getting out the word about the book, including setting up this taping, have been so valuable. 

Actually, I should back up a bit because an article I wrote for the Episcopal Diocesan magazine, SPIRIT (you can download a PDF by clicking here) had just been published in August, entitled, "Yearing in Flesh and Spirit," which outlines a theme of my book.

     This is a detail of a wonderful photo the editor included, St Teresa in Ecstasy, the amazing sculpture by Bernini, based on her autobiohgraphy where she describes in orgasmic terms the visitation of the spirit, the angel (a Christian version of Cupid) thrusting his arrow into her innermost being.

Also before the book was in print,  Philip Hooser, long time Kansas City theater power (actor, writer, producer, director, educator) interviewed me 2015 Sept 5 about the about the then-forthcoming book on KKFI.

Although we have not yet officially launched the book locally, much less nationally,  we received a paid order for the book from Washington, DC October 29 and posted the book the same day. 

From Japan, my Shinto-priest friend who was my roommate at the University of Chicago writes me that his copy of the book has arrived and he first offered it at his family altar. I write back that I am grateful to him for recoginizing the sacred intent of the book. 

Then he wrote again and enlarged his comment: "As soon as I receive particularly something very valuable, very important, and meaningful, I offer it to my family altar to let Kami and spirits of my ancestors see it. But the altar tends to be a storeroom. which is like a safe. If a robber enters my house, he should first go to the altar; he can steel various precious items of mine. 

After offering your book to my family altar, the first sonnet which I read is the sonnet on page 69. When I read the footnote of that page, I found a very accurate description of the core of our religious faith. This description is A+++."

The formal public Book Launch 2015 Nov 16 Monday  7pm at Unity Temple on the Plaza was announced with this filer --

The text reads, in part, --
Thou Art Especially Imvited to  Festive Celebration 
of Passionate Verse!
Vern Barnet, founder of the Kansas City Interfaith Council 
and former Kansas City Star religion columnist 
In his new book Thanks for Noticing Vern Barnet takes readers on an exploration of the sacred beauty of sex and love. Lovers of all kinds turn to Shakespeare's Sonnets for his depth of emotion and richness of thought. Similarly, Barnet's 154 new sonnets range through many moods from youthful folly to maturity, using insights from the world's religions. Because the sonnets are arranged by  parts of the Mass, and some of the sonnets identity the spiritual with the erotic, some many consider the book blasphemous.
     At this special event, conductor of the Sacred Arts Chorale Dr Rebecca Johnson talks with Vern about the book, with questions from the audience. The evening also features a lively performance by Shakespeare himself!

See below for photos from the event.

Vern's area Unitarian Universalist ministerial colleagues, at the end of their meeting in Topeka 2015 Nov 5, asked about the book, and all present (and one present by Skype) purchased copies.

On 2015 Nov 6, Vern spoke on Yearning in Flesh and Spirit at a luncheon meeting of the Professional's Club, and a number of members bought books after his remarks.

Vern's book is now available at the bookstore at the Rime Budddhist Center. Following Vern's talk, Can a Buddhist Have Desires?, and book-signing 2015 Nov 8, Stephanie Shirazi, behind the register, holds one of the remaining copies.

Cliff and Gerry, two of the regulars at David Nelson's monthly Vital Conversations, hold their copies of the book which was the subject of discussion  2015 Nov 11.

The online and print versions of The Kansas City Star for 2015 Nov 14 noted the Public Book Launch:

The Cornerstone Foundation presented an
Author discussion and book signing of
Vern's new book, Thanks for Noticing 
-- Nov 16 Mon 7 pm Free Event-- 
Unity Temple on the Plaza
707 W 47th St, Kansas City, MO 64112 (816) 561-4466 
Free garage parking

With  guest appearance (after 400 years) of
Mr William Shakespeare and moderator Dr Rebecca Johnson
Vern discussed his ground-breaking book on love, sex, and spirituality in the context of world religions 
and signed books after audience Q and A.


     Mr William Shakespeare (Matt Rapport from the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival)  glories in the audience applause as he appeared at the official public book launch 2015 Nov 16 at Unity Temple on the Plaza. He read the opening sonnet in Vern's book and pronounced it worthy.

     Then Dr Rebecca Johnson, director of the Sacred Arts Chorale, interviewed Vern about the book with many interesting questions. The formal program concluded with questions from the audience, and afterwards Vern visited with guests and autographed their books. 

$40 A COPY

     The list/cover price of the book is $16.95. Some places are discounting it to $16.00. CRES charges $16.95 ($12 students/low income) but offers free mailing.
     The first time someone insisted on paying $40 for a copy I was stunned. But on Thanksgiving Day a second person bought a copy directly from me for $40. I think I could get used to this.
     Since then someone sent me $100 for a single copy.


For Pre-publication praise:

Please send your comment


Dear Vern,
     Congratulations on creating a masterpiece! 
     I read your book with increasing wonder and appreciation. It is better than therapy, as it analyzes sexual-spiritual yearning more thoroughly than any of the therapists with whom I tried to discuss this persistent, insistent, overwhelming issue in my early adult life (age 16 to 45).
     In fact, therapists actually refused to directly discuss the topic.  Instead they would redirect my focus to what they considered to be "reality."
    During those years I had been writing poetry, but after therapy I ceased to do so as I felt it was too self-indulgent.  In fact the last line of my last poem was this question: "is poetry sublime or merely masturbation of the mind?"
     Thank you for your inspiration and courage!
--With permission, withholding name
Greater Kansas City area


I am really enjoying reading my friend Vern Barnet's new book Thanks for Noticing.  I am reading and reflecting on one sonnet every day. Reading the sonnet, the epigraphs, and footnotes is like taking an interdisciplinary course on world religion, liturgy, spirituality and sexuality. Often the thoughts stay with me throughout the day and I return to the sonnet at day's end. 
     I have know Vern for several decades and continue to be amazed with his wisdom, insights, and ability to invite me to grow in understanding and appreciation of the human agenda.
     I just watched the YouTube video of Vern reading the Opening Sonnet.  It is great. I just posted a link on Facebook and already have a couple of "likes." 

--The Rev David E Nelson, DMin
president, The Human Agenda
Gladstone, MO


Enjoyed the you tube link.....very nice and professionally done. Congrats!!

John Gregory
Kansas City, MO


Very interesting web page, blog, and offer. Impressive. As is your wonderful book. I go through it slowly, only a couple at a time, savoring this essential Vern, romantic f***er mystic.

--The Rev Brad Carrier, 
Ashland, OR

from Comment added to YouTube video
Dear Vern:
     Like most ministers I know, I have struggled with being honest about this.   In my a book of poetry I wrote,  SEX IS THE KEY TO LIFE ITSELF AND LOVE IS THE KEY TO LIVING.   AND IF YOU WOULD A TRUE LOVE FIND, SEARCH WITH THE HEART AS WELL AS MIND.
     As I know postage to England costs a good bit more, my credit card payment is more than you asked. 
     Love, and a prayer for peace in the Middle East. 
--Richard  Boeke
Horsham,  West Sussex, United Kingdom


Perhaps no more than ten or twelve people might read Thanks for Noticing all the way through and really understand it all, but if it's the right ten sets of eyes, it could win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. It really is that good. 

--Mark Scheel,
editor, writer, and former library information specialist. His 1997 book, A Backward View: Stories and Poems, was chosen for the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award. His latest book is The Pebble: Life Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom.

Byron Bradley
(Byrd) Carrier
Ashland, OR

January 7, 2016

Reviewing Vern’s Sonnets: Thanks for Noticing

I wouldn’t have read Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire  by the Reverend Doctor Vern Barnet were he not my friend from seminary. Vern was a bold visionary, too much for the staid faculty at our University of Chicago seminary, Meadville/Lombard. His three-volume D. Min. thesis on The Void may have perplexed and overwhelmed them. True to his brilliant mind and audacious quirks, he brings his encyclopedic knowledge of trans-cultural mytho-religious facts into his penchant to link the sacred and the sexual.

I’m impatient with poetry, especially sonnets. The odd phrasing and obscure words have to be dwelt upon slowly and repeatedly to tease out their gifts. Then the “Aha!” comes. Then the bemused smile fills the inner face via some pun or double-meaning. Then we share in his passion for passion – sexual and religious. For the reverend doctor, these two are not opposites; these play in union, each fulfilling the other. 

For instance, in “Holy Words” he considers a friend’s caution to back off from the sexual side in his religious poem:

I want an honest, open world, so I 
must keep the holy law to consecrate: 
my friends and every form of love I try,
each sacred chance, some fleshy, gay and straight. 

From shame and shade these sonnets seek to pluck
such ancient holy words as “love” and “fuck.” 

For Vern, a great sin is the expulsion of sex from spirituality. He goes round the world and back through time to gather wider, wilder humane advice. Some he puts in his sonnets (which he recommends we read aloud to pull out their rime, meter, and meaning) and some in the interesting facts he provides at the bottom of each page. For instance, he finds Father Matthew Fox quoting Richard Rohr, “Of all the world’s religions, Christianity has the biggest bias against the body. This is a disastrous theology. If I were Satan, and if I wanted to destroy Christianity, I would work overtime to tempt Christians to hate the flesh.” (Pg. 192) 

In “The Cosmic Christ” Vern puts it in the positive:

The world entire is Christ, distressed, alone, 
a way of painting all we see and know, 
the damned, the saved enjoined with laugh and moan,
a metaphor chamfering loved and foe. 

So I’ll be hurt to heal, be bound to free, 
change ache to kiss and wrench eternity.

In a note at the bottom of a poem he writes: “God’s playful delight is to behold us, to know us as we are, beyond human moral criteria. Similarly, when we love without need, intention, agenda, compulsion, claim, judgment, or dependency, but simply love by noticing, by witnessing, by beholding, loving freely as God does, we become like God. (Pg. 101) 

This reminds me of a poem he used to use in his liturgies: “We are God, and eternally we rejoice and moan; the freedom scares us, the responsibility is immense.” Vern has lived into his freedom and up to his responsibility, and I’ve noticed. 

Do you like words and word-craft, far-flung theology, unusual facts and bold sex-positive affirmations? Do you like sonnets and Shakespeare? Can you read his gay stance into your preferred attraction? Then notice how opening his sonnets opens you. He’d like that. 

--Brad Carrier
Ashland, OR

Sonnet 11 "Kitchen Cockroach"

I've just begun reading Vern's sonnets and I have to say that, among the many laudable aspects of his poetic style, what I find most intriguing is his ability to imbue mundane, oft overlooked moments in daily life -- a cockroach loafing in the kitchen unaware of its impending immolation -- with a sense of cosmic importance, philosophical profundity, even. This effect is as charming as it is existentially troubling for the unsuspecting reader who, upon reading "Kitchen Cockroach," for example, finds himself rooting for the death of the cockroach right up until the moment he realizes that by merely adjusting the magnitude, he too is a cockroach in the eyes of the universe.

This poem is a meditation on something so simple, yet so remarkable: a higher life form destroys a lower one, or, after billions of years of violent expansion, the universe coalesces into two distinct beings, man and cockroach, in order to comprehend what it means to sacrifice and to be sacrificed in the same instant. One action does not cause the other, they are dependent on one another for the continuity of the universe. We are left wondering, as Vern puts it, "Is this fire hate / or love . . ." or is it something distinct altogether?

If this poem is any indication of what's to come in the rest of the volume, then I have no doubt that Thanks for Noticing will prove to be a worthy read!

Philip Noonan


The footnotes are themselves worth the price of the book! And they are on the same page as the sonnet so you don't have to fumble in the back of the book looking for them.

--Jerry Grabher
Kansas City, MO

Sonnet 84 "Postmodern Faith -- What is Truth?"

Is the earth 6,000 years old? Or is it 10,000? Who cares facts? A talking snake in the Garden of Eden? Who cares facts? My friends tell me that the Bible is the truth, the actual truth. But who cares facts? Evolution true? Global warming real?  Irrelevant. Who cares facts? Thinking of stepping on ice that is a quarter of an inch thick? You might care facts. The Incans, Aztecs, Mayans and others engaged in sacred, ritual sacrifice of human beings, including children, as part of their faith that such acts would insure the fertility of the crops, ward off evil, and nourish and propitiate the gods, among other things. (You have stated in your commentary that worship is the enactment of myth, and ritual is a form of sacred play. Some kind of sacred play here!) But such worship cannot fail. And the Inquisition? Thousands of heretics burned at the stake to rid the world of evil. (Worship cannot fail.) For the sake of one Truth? One Truth with a capital T is not postmodern, but fundamentalist. I have a friend and I have relatives who believe that I am going to hell. They worship a God that is going to send me there. Their worship cannot fail? Really? It would be hard to find a question more absurd or dangerous than the last line of this sonnet.

--Ron Ruhnke
St Joseph, MO

Sonnet 124 "Destiny"

I appreciate the beauty and sensuality of the piece. Descriptions are specific and clear. I find them exciting. I am there.

As a person who identifies as atheist, I reject what feels to me a need/desire for some diety's approval. I believe I understand the author's intent to blend the sexual with the divine, and in that sense, the objective is met. I, personally, stand with the men in the joy of their sexuality aside from a diety. Celebrate it! It's wonderful!

--M K Mustard
Lake Lotawana, MO

Sonnet 101 "Jesus Would Have Loved This Man"

Vern, I was touched by #101.  Yes, we are all against sex trafficking and the ugly side of the exploitation of women.  But I know that for many men, perhaps women, too, for whom there is great loneliness in not being able to have a partner or connect intimately with another human being. 

More important than just sex is to be able to have a conversation with another person, even if you pay for it. I see one of our important ministries the will to engage those who have no one to love or care for them. Particularly elderly men with no close family or little in the way of friends. 

I've always believed that, when you walk into an elevator, a kind greeting to the other person standing there may be the only time that day someone spoke to them.  You just never know. 

--With permission, withholding name
Kansas City, MO

Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire

"Vern Barnet is to sonnets what Robert Mapplethorpe is to photography."

--Ryan Gates
musician and composer

"I read a sonnet every night as a devotional practice." 
--Phil Kenin 
photo of Vern and Phil taken at a rehearsal of the Heartland Men's Chorus


I've been in ecstasies of delight while reading your sonnets! I can't express how much enjoyment I'm getting from them. Thank you!
     One experience that I wanted to say thank you for came from a sonnet of yours was with my [relative]. [Name] is in [his/her] early twenties and has experienced some sexual abuse and has some anger and confusion, partly from the experience, and partly from being simply young - and therefore, quite predictably angry and confused!
     Name has not experienced the empathy [he/she] needs from [his/her] parents and other adults, and has sadly drawn the conclusion that all religious people would view [his/her] heart-wrenching pain and honest questions negatively.
     I asked [name] if I could read some of your sonnets aloud in the presence of [him/her] and [other young people]. They opened up great discussions about love, sexuality, spirituality and interfaith dialogue over several days. My [relative] was in a state of marvel! Your poetry and the following discussions opened many new possibilities with [him/her], and gave [the other young people] and me an avenue to squeeze a little more empathy into [his/her] life, which [he/she] desperately needs. Thank you! —WITH PERMISSION


click to return to the beginning of the Post-Publication


Postal receipt from mailing our first order from the United Kingdom.

The Kansas City Public Library now, 2016 Feb 1, has two copies of the book in its collection. Click on the image for the full entry.$002f$002fSD_ILS$002f0$002-

Lovers of all sorts turn to Shakespeare’s sonnets for their depth of emotion and the richness of their ideas. But did Shakespeare try to suppress the publication of his sonnets in 1609? 
     Vern Barnet, former religion writer for The Kansas City Star and author of Thanks for Noticing, a collection of his own sonnets, discusses the sonnet form of poetry, how the sonnet in English is practically identified with Shakespeare’s genius, and explores the meaning of Shakespeare’s sonnets for us today.
     Vern welcomes questions about Shakespeare and about his own book which will be available for sale and signing after the program, or you can purchase it ahead of time.
     Vern's bio.

Unwrapping the Secrets of the Immortal Poems:
What Shakespeare’s Sonnets Say About Love
For Valentine's Day
2016 February 13 Saturday 2 pm
Kansas City Public Library Program, Westport Branch
118 Westport Road, Kansas City, MO 64111, 816-701-3488
See the Report by David Nelson below.

Photo: Geneva Blackmur
Click for more FACEBOOK photos
The Kansas City Public Library Westport Branch presented Vern in an interactive lecture on lecturing Shakespeare's Sonnets. Vern noted that "Lovers of all sorts turn to Shakespeare’s sonnets for their depth of emotion and the richness of their ideas" and asked, " But did Shakespeare try to suppress the publication of his sonnets in 1609?"
     Vern Barnet, former religion writer for The Kansas City Star and author of Thanks for Noticing, a collection of his own sonnets, discussed the sonnet form of poetry, how the sonnet in English is practically identified with Shakespeare’s genius, and explored the meaning of Shakespeare’s sonnets for us today. 
     Vern Barnet studied with U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Karl Shapiro at the University of Nebraska before completing his doctoral studies at the University of Chicago. In addition to The Star, his essays, reviews, and poems have been published in the National Catholic Reporter, the Chicago Literary Review, and various religious magazines and literary journals. He was one of the editors for the 740-page reference book, The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers (2013). He founded the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council in 1989 and remains active in interfaith work. He has taught at area seminaries, is a frequent lecturer at area churches, and has appeared on local and national radio and television.
     For advanced reading, Vern hadsuggested: 
Helen Vendler: The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets -
Stephen Booth, editor: Shakespeare’s Sonnets. 
Harold Bloom: Shakespeare's Sonnets 
William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Edward Hubler: The Riddle of Shakespeare's Sonnets
Vern gave the crowd at the Westport Branch Library a Valentine’s Day gift by unwrapping the secrets of William Shakespeare’s 154 Sonnetsof love. From my recollection and a copy of Vern's notes, I want to tell you about the February 13 presentation.
     Citing the Introduction to his own book of 154 sonnets, Vern said that watching him walk across the room would not be very interesting. But if a ballet dancer or a gymnast went from one wall to the other, it might be quite thrilling. Vern promised a pedestrian summary of what Shakespeare’s Sonnets say about love at the end of the program, but first we would thrill to the poetic dance and gymnastics of the Sonnets.
     He began with the most famous love sonnet, 116, and played several of the 300-some YouTube videos of folks reciting that sonnet, from a 6-year old boy to a professional actor. Then he asked us all to stand, and together we read the sonnet. It was a wonderful new experience! Vern contended that this familiar sonnet beginning, ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds / admit impediments” is not meant as a definition of love but is actually part of an argument Shakespeare had with his beloved.
     Vern presented a time-line of Shakespeare’s life and the view of many scholars about the identity of the young man to whom Shakespeare wrote, and a plausible speculation about how Shakespeare was commissioned to write sonnets to urge the young nobleman to marry and beget a son. Then Shakespeare himself fell in love with him. This led Vern to offer evidence that Shakespeare did not want the sonnets published.
      I enjoyed learning more about what a sonnet is, and how within that strict form Shakespeare invented varied internal patterns. We also learned a bit about the pronunciation of English at that time. For example, in Sonnet 18, which follows the seventeen “procreation” sonnets, the word “lines” in line 12, which puns both the poetic line and the genealogical line, was pronounced to sound like “loins,” further suggesting that “lines” conveyed an intimate message not obvious to today’s reader.
     Vern praised sonnet 73 for its parallel quatrains, each preparing the beloved for Shakespeare’s death with a different metaphor. Shakespeare’s 57, though, can be read many ways: a straight-forward expression of unconditional love or as an ironic blast against his beloved for being neglected or betrayed, as evidence of Shakespeare’s co-dependency or as his patience for the youth to mature enough to realize the value of Shakespeare’s friendship, or even as a mystical affirmation of faith in God in hard times. Volunteers from the audience read these sonnets aloud for us.
     Briefly mentioned were 105 (the “trinity” sonnet) and 126 (the last of the “fair youth” sonnets) with its missing last two lines indicated in the original printing with two sets of empty parentheses. Vern characterized the rest of the 154 sonnets as written to a fallen woman whom Shakespeare sometimes detested but could not resist. 
     I asked if Shakespeare did not want his scandalous sonnets published, why did Vern, whose sonnets also sometimes address a young man, want his published. Vern said that he wanted to proclaim to our secular culture that sexuality and spirituality are intimately related, regardless of who the lovers are, and that his poems are worthy works of art. In fact, Vern has on several occasions has said he wants his sonnets to be compared with best, namely Shakespeare’s.
     Vern’s “pedestrian” summary about what Shakespeare says about love is hardly worth repeating here because anyone who has been in love knows it already, but Vern’s acrobatics through the sonnets were indeed thrilling. 
     I wish that Vern’s own sonnets were as immediately captivating as his presentation, but, like Shakespeare’s, the reader has to work to tease out their dances and gymnastics. Fortunately for us, Vern’s book provides notes for each of his sonnets as well as introductory material to unveil the many moods of the eternal dance of love.
David E. Nelson, D.Min.
The Human Agenda

Schedule me with your group or a party in your home!

Next Free Program

From the Bard to Barnet
On the exact 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death
How Shakespeare Wrote My Book
even though he died Apr 23, 1616
and How What He Said about Love, Art, Faith, and Death 
Can Guide Us Today
As a follow-up to the popular Valentine's Day talk on Shakespeare,
the Library has invited Vern to present another program 
April 23 Saturday 2 pm
Kansas City Public Library - Westport Branch
118 Westport Road, Kansas City, MO 64111, 816-701-3488



Rarely does a poet imitate Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets with a book of his own, but local author Vern Barnet has done just that with his Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire. Barnet honors Shakespeare by showing how the Bard’s concerns about love, art, faith, and mortality shaped his own sonnets, and how Shakespeare’s wisdom can guide our own lives. Local actors’ readings of some of the new sonnets will be featured.

Vern Barnet studied with U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Karl Shapiro at the University of Nebraska before completing his doctoral studies at the University of Chicago. In addition to The Star, his essays, reviews, and poems have been published in the National Catholic Reporter, the Chicago Literary Review, and various religious magazines and literary journals. He was one of the editors for the 740-page reference book, The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers (2013).  He founded the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council in 1989 and remains active in interfaith work. He has taught at area seminaries, is a frequent lecturer at area churches, and has appeared on local and national radio and television.

Vern says: The point of the talk title's hyperbole is this: Except for Shakespeare, my book would never have appeared.
     First, he defined the sonnet form in English into which I have poured my mind and heart. 
     Second, studying how he varied the internal structures of the exterior ababccdefefgg inambc pentameter form encouraged me to find different ways of presenting my theme.
     Third, most of his sonnets are addressed to a fair young man, and the fact that the greatest sonneteer in English so disrupted the sonnet tradition with so many extravagant sonnets in such a prolonged sequence of same-sex affection emboldened me to write in a similar vein. 
     Fourth, while Shakespeare does continue the then 300-year old sonnet tradition of examining the full range of emotions of love, from exaltation to dispair, the psychological and spiritual depth of his accounts, and the ambiguity and complexity of moments in an intimate relationship have never been surpassed. I tried to model my sonnets on the raw honesty of his work within the artistic integrity of his form. 
     Fifth, implicit in the sonnets is a working out of moral and spiritual standards, explicitly, for example, in Sonnet 105, and his identification of the beloved with the divine, while within the sonnet tradition, is raised to a new level. It is to that level that I also aspire, as in my Sonnet 128. 
     Sixth, no one has better united the themes of mortaiity, love, and art than the Bard, and I would like to claim his uniting energy flowed, however imperfectly, into my work. 
     Seventh, several of my sonnets are specifically indebted to his. Instances include his 73 and my 30. 
     Eighth, Shakespeare worries that a rival poet is stealing his beloved, as Sonnet 80; learning from his experience, I perhaps try to do better when a third party enters the scene, as my 58.
     Ninth, as most of Shakespeare's sonnets are framed so that the feeling and logic apply to both same-sex and different-sex lovers, so most of mine are more about emotions not specific to the genders of the parties involved. 
     Tenth, the historical evidence suggests that Shakespeare did not authorize the publication of the 1609 Sonnets, and perhaps I have learned from his unintentional success over the centuries that I might dare deliberately to write openly in his shadow. 
    Eleventh, Shakespeare wrote before Twitter and Facebook; if you wanted to "friend" someone in Elizabehan England, or show off your literary skill, you might well have written a sonnet. But the sonnet-writing fashion was out of style even before Shakespeare's Sonnets were published, and sonnets in such vein have never been in fashion again. (Elizabeth Barrett Browning's slender 44 Sonnets from the Portuguese [1850] -- using the Petrarchan, rather than the Shakespearean sonnet form -- were written of married love.) Only because Shakespeare did it did I write to and about my friends as I have. 
     Twelfth, there is no particular reason for a collection of sonnets to number 154 except to acknowledge Shakespeare's Sonnets.

This event anticipates the Library's upcoming exhibit, First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library. 

For advanced reading:
     Borrow from the library or purchase on line
     Vern Barnet: Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire
  Helen Vendler: The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets 
     Stephen Booth, editor: Shakespeare’s Sonnets

This program is a contribution to the Library's Show Me Shakespeare 2016 series, 400 years after the Bard's death.

Here is an image of the Library's poster announcing the program:


Here is a display at the library promoting my book and the program
(one of the two library copies of my book was borrowed, 
the other displayed here when I took the photo).

Noted also at KC Arts Beat on Facebook

IN THE STAR'S PRINT EDITION 2016 April 22, page 3C

Local author Vern Barnet to discuss Shakespeare and his sonnets Saturday at Westport library
     * April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare
      * Barnet, in an act of literary bravado, has written his own 154 sonnets in imitation of Shakespeare
      * Barnet’s sonnets are a treasure chest of wisdom taken from the world’s religious and spiritual traditions
     April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. The momentous historic event is being commemorated with events around the world, most of which involve the performance of Shakespeare’s plays.
     But Shakespeare’s poetry also deserves to be celebrated. The Bard wrote 154 sonnets, which are considered superlative examples of the form.
      Local author Vern Barnet, in an act of literary bravado, has written his own 154 sonnets in imitation of Shakespeare. He will discuss his book of sonnets, “Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire,” at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Westport Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 118 Westport Road.
     “In the era in which Shakespeare wrote his sonnets, there was no Facebook or Twitter, and it was quite acceptable to show off your literary talent by writing sonnets to ‘friend’ people,” Barnet said. “Using the sonnet in order to carry on a love affair is something that is not often done these days, but I have done that. I’ve written sonnets as a way of communicating the development of my relationship with others.”
     Barnet’s sonnets are more than mere love poems, however. They are a treasure chest of wisdom taken from the world’s religious and spiritual traditions. Drawing on his impressive background as founder of the World Faiths Center for Religious Experience and Study Inc., Barnet has filled his sonnets with references to Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Islamic mystics. All of Barnet’s references are explained in the copious footnotes, which are a delight to read by themselves.
     At the event Saturday, Barnet will discuss “How Shakespeare Wrote My Book — Even though He Died April 23, 1616” and there will be videos of several local actors such as Alan Tilson and Frank Oakley III reading Barnet’s sonnets. The audience will able to vote for the best recitation for a chance to win cash prizes.
     To learn more about “Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire,” visit


Thanks to professional and amateur actors for reading sonnets for videotaping March 30 and 31, and to the staff of the Kansas City Public Library, Westport Branch for their assistance. We are particularly grateful to our professional videographer Bill Pryor, who volunteered his time. Since he was unable to return Thursday, we used a FlipCamera which, while of inferior quality, still captured the high quality of the readings. We expect all videos to appear on YouTube, and some will be selected for the April 23 program. And thanks to our scheduler and advisor, Jamie Rich.


Geneva Blackmer 16
John Gregory 88
Ryan Gates 25 29 55 82 93 124
Philip Hooser 58
Jon Michael Johnson 14 58 88
Mark Matzeder 16 39
Christopher Morgan 39 101
Michael McQuary 15 99
Neal L McGregor 65 88
Jamie Rich 146
Alan Tilson 14 30 124


Rozanne Devine 99 135 140 141 152
Sergio Moreno 58 63
M K Mustard 16 124 92
Anna Oakley 14 30
Frank Oakley III 88 104 15
Coyote Schaaf 82 88
Jesse Schaaf 93 104
Gabriella Sonnenschein 88 16

BOLDED Sonnet # = # of readers  are part of the Apr 23 contest.

14=3 29=1 58=3 88=6 101=1 140=1
15=2 30=2 63=1 92=1 104=2 141=1
16=4 39=2 65=1 93=2 124=3 146=2
25=1 55=1 82=2 99=2 135=1 152=1 




 Observing the
The 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death
at the Westport Library

* Megan Garrett, Kansas City Public Library – Westport Branch, 816.701.3488
* Jamie Rich, promotions, 816 931 1189;
* Vern Barnet, author, 816 753 1633;

 Web announcements;

Same-sex love poems of Shakespeare paralleled in book by founder of Kansas City Interfaith Council

 April 23 also often observed as Shakespeare’s birthday (actual date unknown)

The Kansas City Public Library — Westport Branch will observe the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death Saturday, April 23 at 2 pm with a program by Vern Barnet, “How Shakespeare Wrote My Book — Even though He Died April 23, 1616.”
     “Vern’s program for Valentine’s Day was so popular we are glad to have him back for this auspicious anniversary,” said Megan Garrett, Westport Branch manager.

Rarely does a poet imitate Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets with a book of his own, but local author Vern Barnet has done just that with his Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire. Barnet will discuss the sonnet form as part of a tradition of love poetry already nearly four centuries old when it was perfected in English by Shakespeare. The Bard’s concerns about love, art, faith, and mortality inspired Barnet’s own 154 sonnets, many of which parallel Shakespeare’s written to a fair young man. Local actors’ readings of some of the new sonnets will be featured.

 Vern Barnet studied with U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Karl Shapiro at the University of Nebraska before completing his doctoral studies at the University of Chicago.
     In addition to a weekly column for The Kansas City Star 1994-2012, his essays, reviews, and poems have been published in the National Catholic Reporter, The Chicago Literary Review, and various religious magazines and literary journals. He was one of the editors for the 740-page reference book, The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers (2013).
     He founded the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council in 1989 and remains active in interfaith work. He has taught at area seminaries, is a frequent lecturer, and has appeared on local and national radio and television.
     Biographical information and photos appear at
and at

Praise for Thanks For Noticing includes the following:

“Ride along into frank considerations of sexuality, desire, love, and spirituality. The ride will leave you breathless, spent.” —Bill Tammeus, past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists

Barnet “toils in an age-old tradition of spiritual gurus who delighted in the flesh as they sang divine praise. . . . [This book] belongs at bedside, each sonnet to be savored and explored, slowly – lover at your side.” —Tom Fox, publisher, National Catholic Reporter

If Shakespeare, “the English Bard, is in these sonnets spiritually, so also is the American Bard, Walt Whitman.” —The Rev Mark E. Hoelter, formerly with the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, DC

Barnet “uses his knowledge of world religions to advance discussions, even of controversial areas, including the powerful emotions of love and spirituality.” —Alvin L. Brooks, former City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem


Even though He Died April 23, 1616
Free program by Vern Barnet

This Saturday 2 pm
Westport Library
118 Westport Rd

Dear Friends--

This Saturday marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. His sonnets are immortal. I don't claim that I "channeled" Shakespeare, though my website  does list 12 ways his encounters with love shaped my book. Videos of professional and amateur actors accent the program as they read for cash prizes from my Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire.

Vern Barnet

Even though He Died April 23, 1616

I'll have a fuller account of my talk here in a few days. Congratulations to the winners of the videotaped sonnet reading competition! 
All videos are now on YouTube.


A conversation after church recently led me to reflect on "non-duality." Buddhists much prefer to speak about the "not-two" rather than the One, but some Western mystics mean the same thing. I worry about a facile use of "unity" because it too easily becomes "uniformity." 

My sonnets are often hard work, though I believe the reward is there. The sonnets in the Credo section are complex, but the one that is perhaps most accessible in presenting a non-dualistic perspective is 86 Interbeing. Of the love sonnets, perhaps the conclusion of 24 Passage points to a process which is non-dual in its nature and embrace. One of the sonnets employing scientific references that even ends with the word "Whole" is 45 Husam . . . . And a far more controversial way of approaching non-duality is the sexual language of 130 Your Choice, which makes it clear (I hope) by rhetorical question, that both are true. 

In my opinion the supreme story explicating "entering the Gate of the Not-Two" is the Vimalakirti Sutra. Any religious path, when it becomes an ideology, defeats itself, becomes, to use a current word, a "trap." It is, in my opinion, the narcissism of the spiritual seekers of the 60s that led to the sorry results from that promising time; there was little understanding of "the Body of Christ." One reason I like some forms of Buddhism is that, in them, Buddhism constantly subverts itself. Below is a more compressed meditation from the Diamond Sutra as rendered by R D Laing. 

The Anthem (music by William Mathias) from Julian of Norwich in this morning's service found several ways of pointing to non-duality: "As truly God is our Father so just as truly he is our Mother," with a progression of thought toward the Unity in the Trinity. And of course the penultimate line, the theme of my book (subtitled The Interpretation of Desire), which she words so beautifully: "It is I who teach you to desire. It is I who am the reward of all true desiring." 

From Knots by R D Laing, 1970 

“Although innumerable beings
Have been led to Nirvana
no being has been led to Nirvana” --Diamond Sutra 

Before one goes through the gate
one may not be aware there is a gate
One may think there is a gate to go through
and look a long time for it
without finding it
One may find it and
it may not open
If it opens one may be through it
As one goes through it
one sees that the gate one went through
was the self that went through it
no one went through a gate
there was no gate to go through
no one ever found a gate
no one ever realized there was never a gate 

Varied Audiences

A friend  at a recent alumni function asked me, "What's new?" and I told her I have written a new book. Her face lit up with excitement and pleasure. "What is it?" she asked. I started to reply "It's a book of sonnets . . ." when immediately I saw her face change to disappointment and perhaps even pity. "Yes," I said, "not a lot of people clamoring for sonnets." 

I have laughed many times since about this. Her warmth and regard for me was clear; and what I imagine her assessment to be of the likelihood of me finding wide readership, alas, is no doubt accurate. 

To this insight I might add my own experience that it is easier to "sell" the book, at least to friends, than it is to coax them to read it. Even with all the explanatory material (which Shakespeare did not provide for his sonnets!) the book is daunting; and even though I've said that most people find reading two or three sonnets a day is a considerable pace, the book overwhelms many. I am sustained by the extraordinary praise those who have actually made their way through the book have bestowed upon it.

Perhaps my problem is like those faced by classical musicians; the audience is there, but limited, and the problem is to find it and expand it, or in my case, since my book works on so many different arenas, to find the many niche audiences.

Although I've just begun "marketing" the book, the different audiences to which I've spoken successfully have been so different that each particular talk is distinctive, a different focus. Here are examples for those with varied interests --

  • lovers of erotic literature
  • those interested in the psychology of love and limerence
  • those interested in theology and philosphy
  • those interested in Eucharistic mysteries
  • those interested in world religions
  • those interested in mysticism
  • Shakespeare fans
  • poets and poetry readers, especially those fascinated with the sonnet form and its 700-year heritage
  • those interested in LGBT studies and and sexual variation

2016 July  17.-- Vern and a dozen other alert Kansas City authors were invited to be listed at HometownREADS for Kansas City.

Vern Barnet's summer programs about his book
click on date or scroll down for information

July 10 -- Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church
July 11 -- Prospero's Books, with Beau Bledso and Matt Schwader
July 13, 20, 17 -- St Andrew's Episcopal Church
August 14, 21, 17, September 4 -- Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral


2016 July 10 Sunday 10:30 am
The Interpretation of Desire
     Using one of the 154 sonnets in my new book, Thanks for Noticing,I'll propose that choosing to love the world, even with all its evil, is salvation.
a sermon at the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church
9400 Pflumm Rd. Lenexa, KS 66215; 913-381-3336


2016 July 11
Monday 7 pm

Prospero's Books
1800 West 39th St
Kansas City, MO


An evening 
of sonnets
by William Shakespeare 
and by
Vern Barnet
read by
Matt Schwader
with music by
Beau Bledsoe

Vern previews 
the sonnets,
Matt Schwader
reads them, 
and Beau offers
a musical context.

KC Star writer 
Patrick Neas
introduces the evening.

Beau Bledsoe performs and records with some of the greatest artists in Tango, Flamenco and classical music as he seeks to integrate different musical cultures with diverse audiences. Beau has performed in almost every state in the United States. In addition, Beau has toured extensively in Mexico, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Turkey and Russia. Kansas Citians know him as a soloist and through groups like Bach Aria Soloists, Owen/Cox Dance Group, and the Kansas City Ballet.

Matt Schwader relocated to Kansas City, MO in February 2016, having previously lived and worked as an actor, voice over talent, director, teacher, and acting coach in Chicago since 1990. This past January, he taught a Shakespeare Workshop in Seatttle and served as the verse coach for a production there of Romeo and Juliet. Immersed in Shakespeare, he has played from Stratford-upon-Avon to Mozambique, and performed in contemporary drama as well.

Vern, Beau, Matt, Geneva holding instruments on which Beau performed.
It was a magical evening at Prospero's Books. 
Will Leatham welcomed the crowd, Patrick Neas introduced the performers, Beau Bledsoe provided musical context, Vern Barnet introduced a sonnet, Matt Schwader read it, and the process was repeated. Geneva Blackmer read one sonnet, Al Brooks spoke from his experience, and David Nelson explained his practices of reading one sonnet from Vern's book each day. 

2016 July 13, 20, 27  --  three Wednesdays  6:30-7:30 pm
In cooperation with the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival
Shakespeare’s Sonnets, You, and Me
a series at St Andrew's Episcopal Church
6401 Wornall Terrace, Kansas City, MO 64113; 816-523-1602

July 13 What Shakespeare's Sonnets Say About Love
July 20 From the Bard to Barnet
July 27 How to Write a Sonnet (in 140 Easy Steps)

July 13 What Do Shakespeare's Sonnets Say About Love? -- To whom did Shakespeare write his sonnets? Beginning with infatuation, and ranging through despair, jealousy, deceit, and  co-dependence, do they ever reach maturity? Does Shakespeare identify love with God? Why are there over 300 YouTube videos of Sonnet 116?

July 20 From the Bard to Barnet -- Vern will explore three of at least twelve similarities between Shakespeare's 154 sonnets and his own 154 in his new book, Thanks For Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire. How might these two sets of sonnets disclose our cardinal desires and deepen our faith?

July 27 How to Write a Sonnet (in 140 Easy Steps) -- The externals of the English sonnet form are easy to describe, but more interesting are the three or four common internal logical structures that can be compared with the progress of prayer. In one hour, you may not be able to finish writing a sonnet, but you'll get a good start.

The KC Public Library has copies of these books, including mine.
    Helen Vendler: The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets 
    Stephen Booth, editor: Shakespeare’s Sonnets
    William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Edward Hubler: The Riddle of Shakespeare's Sonnets
    Vern Barnet: Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire

    Vern Barnet writes each month for the diocesan magazine, Spirit. He studied with U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Karl Shapiro and completed his doctoral studies at the University of Chicago and the affiliated Unitarian Universalist seminary. He wrote a weekly column on religion for The Kansas City Star, 1994-2012. His essays, reviews, and poems have appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, the Chicago Literary Review, various religious magazines, and literary journals. He was one of the editors of the 740-page reference book, The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers (2013).  He founded the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council in 1989. He is a member of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. His book of sonnets was published in 2015.


Dean's Forum
August 14, August 21, August 28, September 4
Four Sundays 9:15-10 am 
The Interpretation of Desire
Common Room, Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral
13th and Broadway, Kansas City, MO; 816-474-8260 

Vern Barnet presents questions raised by his new book, Thanks for Noticing, four Sunday mornings. Rooted in seven centuries of the sonnet tradition, the book explores how forms of sexuality and spirituality are intimately related. 
     At a table where all faiths are welcome, the chalice of the sonnet may offer refreshment for our Christian paths. The sonnets are arranged by parts of the Mass, and the class will discuss selected sonnets from at least four sections of the book. 
     Information about the book, including YouTube videos by members of the Cathedral, can be accessed by visiting This site also contains an interview with Vern outlining a "Medieval-Postmodern Theology" that underlines the book.

Aug 14 - Credo - What is Truth?
Aug 21 - Confiteor - How Can I, Full of Sin and Grace, Love Others?
Aug 28 - Sanctus - Is God in Sexual Expression?
Sept 4 - Dismissal - What do Youth, Age, and Death Mean?

The book may be purchased  at the Cathedral Bookstore, at Prospero's Books, at the Rime Buddhist Center Bookshop, or on line through CRES. You may also borrow copies through the Kansas City Public Library.

My Debt to Muslim Poetry

Oct 15 Saturday Brunch
Dialogue Institute of Southwest
2710 S 42, Kansas City, KS 6610

Vern discusses how Rumi and other Muslim poets influenced his book of sonnets, Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire.

Vern was invited to select a sonnet from Thanks for Noticing  to read for World AIDS Day candlelight vigil and service at Zion UCC - St. Joseph, MO. He selected "Sonnet 14 Ad Astra" which begins, "In my frail frame immortal love doth dwell . . . ." Thanks to the Rev Kimi Yokoyama for the beautiful and meaningful occasion.

Thanks to the Reverend Josh Paszkiewicz (the Venerable Sunyananda Dharma) 
for the photos.


Thanks to a Friend 

I am very grateful for your efforts to get my book noticed! As far as bookstores go, I'd be happy to have it stocked without any consignment agreement -- ie, I'd be happy to give several copies of the book to the store -- at least initially, so they can see if it would sell; if not, they can toss them in the trash, no need to return them. 

I know the "market" for poetry is quite small, and much smaller for the difficult stuff in my book, with its "baroque" arrangement. And the percentage of LGBT folks who might be interested at this point must be nearly infinitesimal. While the book may be profoundly rewarding, it often appears dense. 

I am surprised by the number of people who have never read Shakespeare's 154 sonnets, and my name is not quite as well known as his (!), so that also helps me keep perspective. I am sustained by the comments from knowledgeable acquaintances and the continuing invitations to speak, with opportunities they give me to sell a few at a time. 

I am really surprised by the depth of questions the book arouses -- especially in making new presentations to different audiences. So I am working on a Study Guide to accompany the book itself. Of course I am terribly exited about having selected sonnets of mine performed as part of a Candlemas professional musical performance of Wm Byrd's Mass for Four Parts. 

Walt Whitman himselfpaid  to have his 800 copies of the first edition of Leaves of Grass printed, and it took a while before it was noticed. I also take comfort that I have not lost friends nor been disgraced as Whitman was. (See excerpt from Wikipedia below.) On the other hand, if I could just be banned in Boston, as his book was, generating publicity, I might be in my 10th printing by now! 

So I really appreciate your help in trying to find keys that will open the book to the attention it merits. 

Excerpt from Wikipedia
When the book was first published, Whitman was fired from his job at the Department of the Interior after Secretary of the Interior James Harlan read it and said he found it offensive. Poet John Greenleaf Whittier was said to have thrown his 1855 edition into the fire. Thomas Wentworth Higginson wrote, "It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote Leaves of Grass, only that he did not burn it afterwards." Critic Rufus Wilmot Griswold reviewed Leaves of Grass in the November 10, 1855, issue of  The Criterion, calling it "a mass of stupid filth" and categorized its author as a filthy free lover. Griswold also suggested, in Latin, that Whitman was guilty of "that horrible sin not to be mentioned among Christians", one of the earliest public accusations of Whitman's homosexuality. Griswold's intensely negative review almost caused the publication of the second edition to be suspended. Whitman included the full review, including the innuendo, in a later edition of Leaves of Grass.

The View from This Seat
Reflections about Life, Love, Light, and Liberty (the 4-Ls) by Leroy Seat.

Barnet's Brilliant Book

Vern Barnet has long been one of the outstanding religious leaders of Kansas City. The accompanying picture was taken of him at the 2016 Annual Interfaith Community Thanksgiving Dinner, held for the first time on the campus of William Jewell College.

The Barnet Award

At that most enjoyable gathering on Nov. 13, the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award was given to Lama Chuck Stanford, a retired Tibetan Buddhist leader who has long been active in Kansas City.

Barnet founded the Kansas City Interfaith Council in 1989, and after his retirement as head of that organization, the Vern Barnet Award was created in 2010—with him as its first recipient.

(Last year’s recipient of the award was my good friend Ed Chasteen, former professor of sociology at William Jewell College. June and I enjoyed sitting at the same table with Ed and his wife Bobbie at last week’s Thanksgiving dinner.)

For many years Vern (b. 1942) served as a Universalist Unitarian minister, and he is minister emeritus of the Center for Religious Experience and Study (CRES), which he founded in 1982. In 2011, however, he was baptized in an Episcopalian church, and is now said to be an active Episcopalian layman.

His main love, though, still seems to be interfaith activities.

The Barnet Book

Vern is also an editor and author. He co-edited the 740-page Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers (2013). The most recent book he authored, however, is not directly about religion.

Vern’s book Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire was published in 2015. He describes the book as a “prosimetrum of 154 sonnets, glosses, and other commentary, in which the sacred beauty of sex and love is explored.” (A prosimetrum is “a text composed in alternating segments of prose and verse.”)

Vern’s sonnets are consciously linked to Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. But, to be honest, I am over my head in trying to expound upon the meaning and significance of either Shakespeare’s or Barnet’s sonnets. But I have been moved by many of Vern’s sonnets I have read.

For full disclosure, I must admit that I have not read nearly all of Vern’s book, although I do intend to keep reading it little by little--which is the way it needs to be read. Thanks for Noticing is quite obviously a brilliant book as well as a very erudite one.

Barnet’s Sonnets 78 to 86

The 154 sonnets in Vern’s book are grouped into eight sections with titles taken from the parts of a Catholic mass. The most theological part is the one titled “Credo,” and those sonnets, numbers 78 to 86, are the ones to which I have paid the most attention.

(Many of the 154 sonnets are about sex and sexuality, and I will leave it to others to write about the meaning and importance of those.)

Sonnet 78 is titled “Advent,” and as next Sunday, Nov. 27, is the first Sunday of Advent I have read and re-read that insightful sonnet—although the Eucharist does not have the same meaning to me as it does to Episcopalians or Catholics.

“Postmodern Faith: What is Truth?” is the title of Sonnet 84, and it ends with this couplet:
      I know the Gospel is a pious tale,
     But who cares facts when worship cannot fail?

By these words Vern seems to urge us to a pre-modern/post-modern “mysticism” that is not fettered by facticity. Direct experience of God (Ultimate Reality) is more than, and far greater than, having (or seeking) only factual knowledge.

That is one important lesson bundled in Barnet’s brilliant book.

Leroy Seat, Ph.D
1307 Canterbury Ln
Liberty, MO 64068-3209
(816) 841-9586

Twitter: @LKSeat


was the most elaborate program yet featuring the book.
The report is so extensive, it is not contained on this blog --
click here.

Although we await the second printing  -- with corrections -- of Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire, Vern presented one of the few remaining copies of the first printing to Mohammed Shaik Hussain Ali, producer of the film set in India, Evening Shadows, after a luncheon meeting 2018 June 18. Ali, an observant Muslim, was interested in the religious context for the sonnets, drawing on the Muslim tradition and many other faiths.
     Vern mentioned specifically Ibn Arabi, the source of the subtitle for the book (Tarjuman al-Ashwaq). 
     Arabi was born in 1165 in Mercia, a reasonable journey from Seville, Spain, Kansas City's  first Sister City, celebrated by the small-scale reproduction of Giralda Tower on the Country Club Plaza, thanks to developer JC Nichols. The original structure in Seville was a minaret attached to an enormous mosque. The minaret is large enough one can ride a horse up the inside ramp. The minaret was replaced by the Cathedral after the Reconquista, with the belfrey added by the Christians. Arabi, sometimes considered "the Greatest Sheikh" by Sufis, is mentioned 20 times in the book. 


Here are some ideas on how this book can be used to further the wholesome idea that sexuality and spirituality are intimately related in the context of the world's religions, and that the poetic form can chart the journey by which this truth can be discovered. Please let me hear from you with other ideas -- email -

 -- Thank you.
  Vern Barnet
You can help
Sept 5  Philip Hooser KKFI interview with Vern about the forthcoming book
Oct 3 Sat publication in Kansas City
Oct 4 Sun Rosedale Congregational-UCC Church, Vern introduces his book as part of his guest sermon
Oct 17 Sat Private reception at gracious Hyde Park home with guitarist, baritone, and Shakespearean actor
Oct 18 Sun  Tenor Dr Joseph DeSota is videotaped at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral singing the book's Frontispiece tune, available thereafter on YouTube
Oct 25 Sun Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral bookstore is the first to stock the book
Nov 6 Fri 12  luncheon - Professional's Club: "Yearning in Flesh and Spirit"
Nov 8 Sun 10:30  "Can a Buddhist Have Desires?" Dharma talk at Rime Buddhist Center
Nov 11 Wed 1pm  The book is the topic of the Vital Conversations meeting led by David Nelson at the MidContinent Antioch Library 
Nov 14 Sat  The Kansas City Star announces the Nov 16 event with a story and photo about the book
Nov 16 Mon 7pm  Public book launch and signing at Unity Temple on the Plaza with Dr Rebecca Johnson and Shakespearean actor
Feb 1  The Kansas City Public Library purchases two copies of the book and placed them on its shelves.
Feb 13 Sat 2p  Westport Library: Vern speaks on "What Shakespeare's Sonnets Say About Love" and compares them to his own as part of the Library's "Show Me Shakespeare" emphasis -- the talk is so popular another is scheduled Apr 23
Apr 12 Tue Luncheon - Retired Clergy of All Faiths - "Thanks for Noticing"
Apr 17 Sun  The Kansas City Star Literary Calendar announces the Apr 23 program
Apr 20 Wed The Kansas City Star web edition runs a story about the book at the Apr 23 program
Apr 22 Fri The Kansas City Star print edition runs a story about the book at the Apr 23 program
Apr 23 Sat 2p  Westport Library: "How Shakespeare Wrote My Book even though he died Apr 23, 1616"
also Prizes (1st, 2d, 3d) awarded for readings of sonnets from the book on YouTube, judged by library audience
June 1  Second Set of Prizes (1st, 2d, 3d) awarded for most watched readings of sonnets from the book on YouTube
June 7 Tue 5:30  At a rehearsal of the Heartland Men's Chorus, Vern is a guest and is invited to tell about his book 
July 10 Sun  The Kansas City Star, 7D, previews the July 11 program
July 10 Sun 10:30  "The Interpretation of Desire," sermon at the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church
July 11 Mon 7p July 11 -- Prospero's Books, "The Bard, Barnet, and Beau" Bledsoe with Matt Schwader
July 17 Sunday Thanks for Noticing promoted on HometownREADS for Kansas City.
     * In cooperation with the Heart of America 
     Shakespeare Festival -- three programs below
July 13 Wed 6:30p  * What Shakespeare's Sonnets Say About Love -- St Andrew's Episcopal Church
July 20 Wed 6:30p * From the Bard to Barnet -- St Andrew's Episcopal Church
July 27 Wed 6:30p  * How to Write a Sonnet (in 140 Easy Steps) -- St Andrew's Episcopal Church
    ** Dean's Forum -- four programs below
Aug 14 Sun 9:15 ** Credo - What is Truth? -- Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral
Aug 21 Sun 9:15 ** Confiteor - How Can I, Full of Sin and Grace, Love Others? -- Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral
Aug 28 Sun 9:15 ** Sanctus - Is God in Sexual Expression?-- Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral
Sept 4 Sun 9:15 ** Dismissal - What do Youth, Age, and Death Mean? -- Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral
Fall Geneva Blackmur's 1,200-word interview with Vern about the book is published both on line and in the printed Interfaith News, published by the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council
Oct 1 Sat 10a Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award luncheon at the KC Public Library - Central, at which the book, which had been nominated, was displayed and Vern recognized. 
Oct 15 Sat 10a Brunch - "My Debt to Muslim Poetry" - Dialogue Institute of Southwest
Dec 1 Thu 7 pm Reading "Sonnet 14 Ad Astra" for World AIDS Day at Zion UCC - St. Joseph, MO.
Feb 2 Thu 7pm Candlemas: Light, Music, Poetry 
Mar 8, 15, 22 ,29 Lenten series using "Credo" section of the book



151017 (private launch) Noonan 101 Apr23Announce
GHTC (bookstore) fresh neo-b 161201 St Joseph
DeSota events Mar30-31 Leroy Seat blog
151029 Wash DC) help 160423PR
Rime (bookstore) LibraryCatalog 160420Star
151114 (Star story) 160213DEN 160423talk
151116 (Public launch) JerryG Non_Duality
comment Ruhnke varied_audiences
scheel KCPL2016Apr23
brobrad2 MKM "Play" extracts

two library presentations, (westport )
X at religs org (2 UCC, Unity, UU, Buddhist, Muslim, 11 Episc (St Andrews, GHTC, Redeemer)
1 radio interview
1 private receptio9n
1 bookstore
2 Club (Progf VitalCon, Reti Clrgy)
3 Star reports
1 Heartloand Men's Chor
2 IFC reports
1 Prize nomination Thorpe Menn Literary
1 litiurgical setting Candlemas with Wm Byrd

Extracts about Play  notes to be formatted

Johan Huizinga, 1938/1949 Homo Ludens, p17-18. 
Gregory Bateson, 1972 Steps to an Ecology of Mind 
Carl Kerenyi, 1962 The Religion of the Greeks and Romans, 
Harvey Cox, 1969 The Feast of Fools, and 
Robert E Neale, 1969 In Praise of Play. 
Romano Guardini, 1935 The Spirit of the Liturgy, 

Play and game are multivalent terms in English; Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander in their 2013 Surfaces and Essences show how playing a role, playing the flute ¢«Cowboy Krishna Plays His Flute», playing the violin, playing soccer, playing basketball, and other uses require different words for play in Mandarin (p10-13); Ludwig Wittgenstein famously analyzed language games, Sprachspielen, as his 1953 Philosophical Investigations 
 “To live in eternity is to live from moment to moment; to live not in the ream of means, but in the realm of ends in which every act is an end in itself and has no purpose beyond itself.” —Huston Smith
Thomas Merton, 1961 New Seeds of Contemplation concludes with a chapter entitled, “The General Dance,” in which he writes of God’s play, p297, “For the world and time are the dance of the Lord in emptiness. . . .For we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.” 
Kant and Schiller, and John Dewey and George Herbert Mead have discussed play; and 
Gordon Burghardt and others have noticed that play involves freedom from the ordinary demands of ordinary time. 
Ian Suttie, 1935 The Origins of Love and Hate argues that play is the “mother of invention,” not as the proverb has it, necessity. 
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow describes an understanding of this sense of freedom 
Georges Bataille (1897-1962) writes that “in sacrifice the offering is rescued of all utility” in his Theory of Religion, 1989/1992
The Sanskrit term often used for God’s play is lila. 
“The life instinct, or sexual instinct, dmands activity of a kind that . . .  can only be called play.” —Norman O Brown, 1959 Life Against Death. “Playing means giving oneself temporary freedom for duty and necessity, voluntarily taking risks and being excited because one does not know the outcome; pretending is self-conscious delight in alternative possibilities . . . .” —Theodore Zeldin, 1996 An Intimate History of Humanity, p82. Composer John Cage (1912-1992), once a theology student, put it succinctly: “The highest purpose is to have no purpose at all.” Robert Bellah’s magisterial 2011 Religion in Human Evolution considers play essential for development of ritual, an early manifestation of  the apprehension of the sacred