John Barr served as the first president of the Poetry Foundation from 2004 to 2013, where he worked with the board to develop the Foundation's strategic plan and to build a permanent home for Poetry magazine, the first in its 100-year history. He has taught in the graduate writing program of Sarah Lawrence College and has served on the boards of the Poetry Society of America, Yaddo, and Bennington College.

Barr grew up in Lisle, Illinois and earned a BA in English from Harvard University on an ROTC scholarship. After serving in the Navy for five years during the Vietnam War, he returned to Harvard Business School to earn an MBA. Barr's poems have appeared in many magazines and journals, and his books of poetry include The Hundred Fathom Curve (1997)—expanded and updated as The Hundred Fathom Curve: New & Collected Poems (2011)—and the mock-epic Grace: Book One of the Adventures of Ibn Opcit (1999, 2013) and Opcit at Large: Book Two of The Adventures of Ibn Opcit (2013). He lives in New York and Chicago.