These poems strike a rare balance—almost unique in a first book—between a private and public world. The public world is visible and painful: two countries trapped in a way, and childhood trapped between danger and estrangement. But in the end, it is the deliberate privacy of language here—beautiful, challenging and unswerving—which secures for these poems their haunting poignance. Asylum is a compelling first book.
Eavan Boland
Winner, 2000 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize

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Winner of the 2000 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize
2002 finalist in poetry, Society of Midland Authors

Quan Barry’s stunning debut collection has been compared to Sylvia Plath’s Ariel for the startling complexity of craft and the original sophisticated vision behind it. In these poems beauty is just as likely to be discovered on a radioactive atoll as in the existential questions raised by The Matrix.

Asylum is a work concerned with giving voice to the displaced—both real and fictional. In “some refrains Sam would have played had he been asked” the piano player from Casablanca is fleshed out in ways the film didn’t allow. Steven Seagal, Yukio Mishima, Tituba of the Salem Witch Trials, and eighteenth-century black poet Phillis Wheatley also populate these poems.

Barry engages with the world&mdash;the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, the legacy of the Vietnam war&mdash;but also tackles the broad meditative question of the individual’s existence in relation to a higher truth, whether examining rituals or questioning, “Where is it written that we should want to be saved?” Ultimately, <I>Asylum</I> finds a haven by not looking away.

88 Pages, 6 x 8.2 in.

August, 2001

isbn : 9780822957690

about the author

Quan Barry

Quan Barry is the author of three previous poetry collections: Asylum, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize; Controvertibles; and Water Puppets, winner of the Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. She is also the author of the novel She Weeps Each Time You’re Born. Barry has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in both poetry and fiction. She is professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Quan Barry