Amy Quan Barry
Position title: Lorraine Hansberry Professor of English
6195D Helen C. White Hall
- Creative Writing (poetry and fiction), the Lyric (contemporary and classical)
Amy Quan Barry is the author of the poetry collections Asylum, Controvertibles, and Water Puppets. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Missouri Review, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, and other literary publications. She is the recipient of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize (for Asylum) and has received fellowships from Stanford University, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
In the town of Danvers, Massachusetts, home of the original 1692 witch trials, the 1989 Danvers Falcons will do anything to make it to the state finals—even if it means tapping into some devilishly dark powers. Against a background of irresistible 1980s iconography, Quan Barry expertly weaves together the individual and collective progress of this enchanted team as they storm their way through an unforgettable season.
Helmed by good-girl captain Abby Putnam (a descendant of the infamous Salem accuser Ann Putnam) and her co-captain Jen Fiorenza (whose bleached blond “Claw” sees and knows all), the Falcons prove to be wily, original, and bold, flaunting society’s stale notions of femininity. Through the crucible of team sport and, more importantly, friendship, this comic tour de female force chronicles Barry’s glorious cast of characters as they charge past every obstacle on the path to finding their glorious true selves.Read more
Winner of the 2010 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry
In her third poetry collection, Quan Barry explores the universal image of war as evidenced in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as Vietnam, the country of her birth. In the long poem “meditations” Barry examines her own guilt in initially supporting the invasion of Iraq. Throughout the manuscript she investigates war and its aftermath by negotiating between geographically disparate landscapes—from the genocide in the Congo—to a series of pros poem “snapshots” of modern day Vietnam. Despite the gravity of war, Barry also turns her signature lyricism to other topics such as the beauty of Peru or the paintings of Ana Fernandez.Read more
Controvertibles features more of the refined brilliance and delicate lyricism of this poet, cast in a more meditative mode. Throughout, she examines cultural objects by lifting them out of their usual settings and repositioning them in front of new, disparate backdrops. Doug Flutie’s famous Hail Mary pass and Rutger Hauer’s role in Blade Runner are contextualized within the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Bob Beamon’s world-record-setting long jump in the 1968 Olympics is slowed down and examined in the style of The Matrix’s revolutionary bullet time. Samantha Smith, Richard Nixon, the Shroud of Turin, Igor Stravinsky, the largo from Handel’s Xerxes, the resurrection of Lazarus, and the groundbreaking 1984 Apple Computer Super Bowl commercial are among the many disparate people and objects Barry uses to explore the multifaceted nature of existence.Read more
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—the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, the legacy of the Vietnam war—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, Asylum finds a haven by not looking away.Read more