Willis Barnstone is a writer of comparative literature, biblical studies, and poetry, as well as a translator. He has spent extended periods in Mexico, Spain, France, England, Greece, and China. He began writing poetry when he was twenty years old; his first published poem appeared in the Anglo-French periodical Points. His first book of poems published in the United States was From This White Island, reflecting on his time on an island in Greece. One of Barnstone's closest friends and mentors was author Jorge Luis Borges. In an essay written for Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Barnstone confides, "I see poetry, fiction, and scholarship as Borges did. They are the work of a writer and move into each other, separated by typography."
- Poems for Exchange, Institut Francais d'-Athenes, 1951.
- Notes for a Bible, Hermanos Hernandez (Malaga), 1952.
- From This White Island, Twayne, 1959.
- A Sky of Days, Indiana University Fine Arts, 1967.
- Antijournal, Sono Nis Press, 1971.
- A Day in the Country, Harper, 1971.
- New Faces of China (with photographs), Indiana University Press, 1973.
- China Poems, University of Missouri Press, 1976.
- Wonders: A Sequence of 10 Fish Staring & Very Dumb, privately printed, 1976.
- Stickball on 88th Street: A Child's NY Memorysongs, illustrated by Karmen Effenberger, Colorado Quarterly, 1978.
- Overheard, with drawings by wife, Helle Barnstone, Raintree Press, 1979.
- A Snow Salmon Reached the Andes Lake, Curbstone Press, 1980.
- Ten Gospels & A Nightingale: A Sonnet Sequence Containing the Dedicatory Poem & Concluding Section of a Sequence of 202 Sonnets to Be Called the Book of Breath, Triangular Press, 1981.
- The Alphabet of Night (limited edition), F. Brewer, 1984.
- Five A.M. in Beijing, Sheep Meadow Press, 1987.
- Funny Ways of Staying Alive, University Press of New England, 1993.
- The Secret Reader: 501 Sonnets, University Press of New England, 1996.
- Algebra of Night: New and Selected Poems, 1948-1998, Sheep Meadow Press, 1998.
- (Contributor) Juan Marichal and Ivar Ivask, editors, Luminous Reality: Critical Essays on the Poetry of Jorge Guillen, University of Oklahoma Press, 1968.
- The Poetics of Ecstasy: Varieties of Ekstasis from Sappho to Borges, Holmes & Meir, 1983.
- The Poetics of Translation: History, Theory, and Practice, Yale University Press, 1993.
- (And translator) Six Masters of the Spanish Sonnet: Quevedo, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Antonio Machado, Federico Garcia Lorca, Miguel Hernandez (essays), Southern Illinois University Press, 1993.
- (Co-editor with Tony Barnstone) Literatures of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, Prentice Hall, 1998.
- Eighty Poems of Antonio Machado, Las Americas, 1959.
- (With wife, H. Barnstone) Margarita Liberaki, The Other Alexander (novel), Noonday, 1959.
- (And editor) Greek Lyric Poetry, Bantam, 1962, enlarged edition, Indiana University Press, 1966.
- (And author of introduction) Ignacio Bernal, Mexico before Cortez: Art, History and Legend, Dolphin Books, 1963.
- Theobaldus Episcopus, Physiologus Theobaldi Episcopi de Naturis Duodecim Animalium, woodcuts and lithographs by Rudy Pozzatti, Indiana University Press, 1964.
- Sappho: Lyrics in the Original Greek with Translations, Doubleday/New York University Press, 1965.
- (And editor and author of introduction) The Poems of Saint John of the Cross, Indiana University Press, 1967.
- Shir Hashirin, The Song of Songs, Kedros (Athens), 1970.
- (With Ko Ching-po) The Poems of Mao Tse-tung, Harper, 1972.
- (And author of introduction) Pedro Salinas, My Voice Because of You, preface by Jorge Guillen, State University of New York Press, 1975.
- (And author of introduction) Fray Luis de Leon, The Unknown Light: The Poems of Fray Luis de Leon, State University of New York Press, 1979.
- (With David Garrison) A Bird of Paper: Poems of Vicente Aleixandre, Ohio University Press, 1981.
- Antonio Machado y Ruiz, The Dream below the Sun: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado, introduction by John Dos Passos, Crossing Press, 1981.
- (And annotator) Sappho and the Greek Lyrical Poets, introduction by William E. McCulloh, drawings by H. Barnstone, Schocken Books, 1988.
- (With son, Tony Barnstone, and Xu Haixen; critical introduction by W. Barnstone and T. Barnstone) Laughing Lost in the Mountains: Poems of Wang Wei, University Press of New England, 1992.
- (With Bronislava Volkova) B. Volkova, The Courage of the Rainbow: Selected Poems, Sheep Meadow Press, 1993.
- Sappho, Sappho: A New Translation, Sun & Moon Press, 1998.
- To Touch the Sky: Metaphysical and Spiritual Books in Translation, New Directions, 1998.
- The New Testament (with a study and literary translation), Penguin-Putnam, 1999.
- The Apocalypse, New Directions, 2000.
Translator of plays in verse, including: Calderon de la Barca, King Balshazzar's Feast, produced in St. Leo, FL, 1969; Lope de Vega, The Outrageous Saint, produced in Nova Scotia, 1971; and Pablo Neruda, Rage and Death of Joaquin Murieta, 1972.
- (With Hugh A. Harter) Miguel de Cervantes, Riconete y Cortadillo, Las Americas, 1960.
- Luis de Gongora, Soledades, translated by Edward Wilson, Las Americas, 1965.
- Modern European Poetry: French, German, Greek, Italian, Russian, Spanish, (anthology), Bantam, 1966, revised edition, 1978.
- (And author of introduction) Edgar Lee Masters, New Spoon River, Macmillan, 1968.
- (With Mary Ellen Solt) Concrete Poetry: A World View, Indiana University Press, 1969.
- Spanish Poetry from the Beginning through the Nineteenth Century (anthology), Oxford University Press, 1970.
- Eighteen Texts: Writings by Contemporary Greek Authors, Harvard University Press, 1972.
- (With daughter, Aliki Barnstone) A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now, Schocken Books, 1980, revised edition with A. Barnstone, Random House/Pantheon, 1992.
- (And photographer) Borges at Eighty: Conversations, Indiana University Press, 1981.
- The Other Bible: Jewish Pseudepigrapha, Christian Noncanonical Apocrypha, and Gnostic Scriptures, Harper, 1984.
- With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires: A Memoir, University of Illinois Press, 1993.
- Sunday Morning in Fascist Spain: A European Memoir, 1948-1953, Southern Illinois University Press, 1994.
Also author of play, The Girl and the Poison Tree. Contributor of numerous translations to anthologies and books, including: The World's Love Poetry (Greek, Latin, Portuguese sections), edited by Michael R. Martin, Bantam, 1960; Anthology of Spanish Poetry, edited by Angel Flores, Anchor, 1961; Concise Encyclopaedia of Modern World Literature, edited by Geoffrey Grigson, Hawthorn, 1963; Nikos Kazantzakis, Spain (poetry sections), translated by Amy Mims, Simon & Schuster, 1963; Language of Love (short stories), edited by Michael R. Martin, Bantam, 1964; Genius of the Spanish Theater (plays), edited by Robert O'Brien, Mentor Books, 1965; Medieval Lyric Poetry, edited by W. T. H. Jackson, Bantam, 1966; Helen Hill Miller, Bridge to Asia, Scribners, 1967; Adventures in World Literature, edited by Applegate, Browne, and others, Harcourt, 1970; Poems of the Greek Anthology, edited by Peter Jay, Penguin, 1973; Audrey Popping, Dawn Wakes in the East, Harper, 1974; and For Neruda, for Chile, edited by Walter Lowenfels, Beacon Press, 1974. Original poems included in New Campus Writing, Number 3, Grove, 1959. Also contributor of original poems, verse translations, occasional prose translations, and articles to periodicals, including Antioch Review, Arizona Quarterly, Columbia University Forum, Evergreen Review, Kenyon Review, Nation, New Republic, New York Book Review, New Yorker, New York Times Sunday Book Review, Nine (London), Points (Paris), Prairie Schooner, Sewanee Review, Triad, Tulane Drama Review, and Yale Review. Editor-in-chief, Artes Hispanicas Hispanic Arts, published jointly by Indiana University and Macmillan.