top of page

John Barton, Mentor

Poetry, Fiction, Memoir
Manuscript Evaluation
Editing Services

John's Services


John works as a mentor in poetry, fiction, and memoir with writers at all stages of their growth. Each mentorship is shaped to match the writer’s needs and focuses on their unique gifts, challenges, and aspirations. Each session is one hour long, limited to two poems, a single short story or memoir excerpt. This allows for in-depth discussion. John also mentors writers in the art of revision, so you are encouraged to bring work back to subsequent sessions. And you may live anywhere, near or far. John will meet with you on Skype or FaceTime, by phone, or in person. You may book a session every week, once a month, or whenever you want his advice. He likes to see the work to be discussed in advance so he can provide you with useful guidance.  He charges $60 per hour for the time he needs to prepare beforehand and for the session itself

Manuscript Evaluation

John evaluates book-length manuscripts of poetry to assist authors in preparing them to submission to publishers. John will provide in-depth feedback on completeness, organization, and the quality of the writing. He will identify what steps authors need to take in bring their manuscripts up to publication quality. He will identify strengths and weaknesses; what work is required poem by poem, section by section; the front and back matter required; and what to say in the all-important cover letter. After he's completed the evaluation, John will meet with the author for three to four hours on Skype or FaceTime, by phone, or in person. His fee, ranging from $500 to $1000, will be established only after he has read the manuscript and made an initial assessment.  The estimated fee covers only one meeting and the associated preparation.  Additional charges shall be made for all subsequent meetings. 


John offers workshops in poetry and on publishing.  His workshops include “Putting It on the Line: How to Make Your Poetic Lines Work Better” (in two-hour, day-long, and two-day versions, group-size: 5 to 15); “The Model Book: Sharing Books of Poetry That Inspire Your Own”  (two-hours; group size: up to 10), and “Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Submit Your Work to Magazines and Book Publishers” (two-hours; group size: up to 25). Please feel free to invite John to design a workshop with a focus of interest to you. Rates upon request.

Editing and Production Services

John works on a freelance basis as a substantive editor, copy editor, and proof reader. He is available to work in whatever capacity you need, whether on a single article or the entire issue of a magazine; a book chapter or the whole book, a government document or your company’s annual report. He also will edit books of poetry, fiction, and literary nonfiction for publishers or private clients. If you need him to see your project through any or all stages of production, he can see it from manuscript development to editing, design, and printing. Rates upon request



John Barton, a nationally known poet, editor, and mentor, enjoys meeting and working with writers at all stages of their careers.

The author of eleven books of poetry, John edited two of Canada's most prominent literary magazines, Arc (1988 to 2003) and The Malahat Review (2004 to 2018). He has taught poetry at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and the University

of Victoria; led workshops on craft and publishing for the New Brunswick Writers Federation, Saskatchewan's Sage Hill Writing Experience, and Ottawa's Tree Reading Series; and served as writer in residence at the Saskatoon Public Library (2008/ 2009), the University of New Brunswick (2010/2011), and Memorial University

of Newfoundland (Fall 2015). Whether in front of a classroom, leading a workshop, or working one on one, he enjoys inspiring writers to realize the possibilities

of their poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, and memoirs.

John worked as the poetry editor for Winnipeg-based Signature Editions from 2005 to 2008 and has been a manuscript editor for Brick Books in London, Ontario, since 2010. He has also edited books of poetry for Wolsak and Wynn and Coach House. Writers often engage him privately to evaluate and edit their manuscripts prior to submitting them for consideration to publishers. 

John's experience in magazine and book publishing is deep. Before he became the editor of The Malahat Review, he worked in Ottawa for two decades as a librarian,

a production manager, a publications coordinator, and an editor at five national museums, including the National Gallery of Canada, where from 2001 to 2003 

he oversaw the publication of the quarterly magazine, Vernissage. He joined the advisory board of Grain, Saskatchewan's literary quarterly, in 2016.

Born in Edmonton and raised in Calgary, John has won three Archibald Lampman Awards, an Ottawa Book Award, a CBC Literary Award, and a National Magazine Award. Since 1980, his poems, essays, articles, interviews, and book reviews have appeared in anthologies, literary magazines, and newspapers in Canada, Australia, China, India, Romania, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


He makes his home in Victoria, B.C, where he was appointed to be the fifth (and first male) City ofVictoria Poet Laureate in January 2019.  Palimpsest Press will publish his first book of essays, We Are Not Avatars: Essays, Memoirs, Manifestos, in 2019. Signal will publish Lost Family, his twelfth book of poems, in 2020.

John's Publications


  • We Are Not Avatars: Essays, Memoirs, Manifestos. Windsor: Palimpsest, forthcoming 2019.

  • Visible but Not Seen: Queer Expression in the Age of Equity. Toronto: Anstruther, 2018.

Books of Poetry 

  • Lost Family. Montreal: Signal, forthcoming, 2020.

  • Polari. Fredericton: Goose Lane, 2014.

  • For the Boy with the Eyes of the Virgin:Selected Poems. Gibsons: Nightwood, 2012.

  • Hymn. London: Brick, 2009.

  • West of Darkness: Emily Carr, A Self-Portrait / A l’ombre de l’ouest: Emily Carr, un autoportrait. First bilingual edition. Ottawa: BuschekBooks, 2006.

  • Hypothesis.Toronto: Anansi, 2001.

  • West of Darkness: Emily Carr, A Self-Portrait. 2nd ed. Vancouver: Beach Holme, 1999.

  • Sweet Ellipsis.Toronto: ECW, 1998.

  • Designs from the Interior. Toronto: Anansi, 1994.

  • Notes toward a Family Tree. Kingston: Quarry, 1993.

  • Great Men. Kingston: Quarry, 1990.

  • West of Darkness: A Portrait of Emily Carr. Kapuskasing: Penumbra, 1987.

  • Hidden Structure. Victoria: Ekstasis, 1984.

  • A Poor Photographer. Victoria: Sono Nis, 1981.


Poetry Chapbooks

  • Windsock. Victoria: Frog Hollow, 2018.

  • Reframing Paul Cadmus. Ottawa: above/ground, 2016.

  • Balletomane: The Program Notes of Lincoln Kirstein. Saskatoon: Jack Pine, 2012.

  • Asymmetries. Victoria: Frog Hollow Press, 2004: Book I: The Strata; Book 2: In the House of the Present.

  • Runoff. Ottawa: Viola Leaflets, 2003.

  • Shroud. Ottawa: Viola Leaflets, 1999.

  • Oxygen.  Maxville, Ont.: above/ground, 1999.

  • Destinations, Leaving the Map. Maxville, Ont.: above/ground, 1995.

Anthologies and Monographs (Editor)

  • The Essential Douglas LePan. Erin: Porcupine's Quill, forthcoming 2019.

  • The Malahat at Fifty: Canada's Iconic Literary Journal. Victoria: University of Victoria Libraries, 2017.

  • Seminal: Canada's Gay Male Poets (coedited with Billeh Nickerson). Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp, 2007.

  • We All Begin in a Little Magazine: Arc and the Promise of Canada's Poets (coedited with Rita Donovan). Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1998.



“You could ask for no better champion for your writing. John provided editorial mentorship, and I benefited tremendously. His editorial approach was rigorous and generous. I am a stronger writer for it today.”

Garth Martens, author of Prologue for the Age of Consequence


John Barton is a superb editor. He is sensitive to the writer's intentions and generous in his comments and feedback—generous in every way, in terms of the time he spends thinking about the work and the tact with which he invites the writer to think more deeply.

Nancy Holmes, Associate Professor, Creative Writing, UBC-Okanagan 


I had the good fortune to work with John on more than fifty issues of  

The Malahat Review. Through twelve-plus years and many thousands of pages of poetry, prose, and reviews, he brought a poet's intense scrutiny to every line of text to ensure meaning was communicated as clearly and accurately as possible (which I appreciate as a reader), and he brought a publisher's acumen and excellent management skills to consistently pull together the magazine on schedule with a minimum of revisions (which I appreciate as a designer).

Clint Hutzaluk, Creative Director, Principal at Rayola Creative


John is not only a meticulous editor, but also a great mentor. I definitely recommend John to anyone looking for help.

Branka Petrovic, author of Mechanics of a Gaze

At The Malahat Review, John opened doors to and helped mentor a new generation of young writers, reviewers, and editors.

David Leach, Chair, Department of Writing, University of Victoria




Drop me a note if you're looking

for a mentor, a workshop

leader, manuscript evaluation,

or editing and production services.


Success! Message received.

bottom of page