Barbie Angell is a poet, short story writer, satirist and artist in Asheville, North Carolina. Born near Chicago, Barbie grew up on a farm in Yorkville, Illinois. After her parents divorced, she was placed in Mooseheart, in Aurora, Illinois. Known as “The Child City,” Mooseheart is a home for children, sponsored by the Loyal Order of Moose, whose parents are unable to care for them.
While her first Christmas there was difficult, one of the gifts donated to her was a diary that would change her life. Since an orphanage is not a place where one can have privacy, she chose instead to hide her thoughts in poetry. Barbie’s writing flourished there. After graduation, Barbie attended a small, private school near her family. Since she had her sights set on being a lawyer since the age of six, the attention her writing garnered there was not enough to change her career choice—until her mentor, Lincoln College’s theater director Jerry Dellinger, sat her down for an honest discussion. “So here’s the thing.” Jerry said, “You want to study to be a lawyer, but that’s not right. You’re not going to ever be a lawyer no matter how much you study, because you are a writer. That’s what you’re good at and that’s what you should do.” This discussion changed her major—and her life.
In 1994, Jerry convinced her she should perform her poetry in order to grow as an artist, and Barbie gave her first live performance at the Bloomington, Illinois Barnes & Noble. In 1997, she began successfully performing at a local bar, and also started “The Open Mic That Wouldn’t Die,” which she ran until moving to Asheville in 1999. Her words took her to a poetry competition in DC in 1997 as well, where she placed 12th out of 1400 poets from around the world. Barbie has performed in coffee houses, bars, ice cream shops and outdoor venues. Her goal has always been to reach people who don’t know they like poetry, and convince them that they do. In addition to live performances, Barbie has sold over 500 copies each of three previous self-published volumes of poetry.Barbie is a writer who rhymes, and her affinity for rhyme is not surprising at all—she grew up devouring the works of Shel Silverstein and Lewis Carroll. As a child plagued with illness and severe asthma, she spent quite a bit of her childhood alone. As is often the case with writers, her love of words is derived from the fact that books were her closest friends.
Since moving to Asheville, NC, Barbie has performed her varied collection of poetry in venues ranging from coffeehouses and ice cream shops to bars and bookstores. Named a Mountain Xpress Best of WNC Poet in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. She is also well known in the online community and was named a Best of WNC Social Media Personality in the 2013 readers’ poll.
And now Barbie is following in Shel’s footsteps again… Her first book of children’s poetry and illustrations, Roasting Questions, was published by Grateful Steps Publishing House in Asheville in 2013. It was endorsed by singer/songwriter/author & activist, David LaMotte, and singer/songwriter/author/music legend, Rosanne Cash.
Photo by Rodney Smith – Tempus Fugit Design