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By Caroline CottomPublisher: Main Street Rag Publishing CompanyISBN: 978-1-59948-918-6Genre: PoetryPrice: $14.00
Available from: Main Street Rag

Asylum explores rural West Tennessee in the 1920s and 1930s through the lens of a sharecropper’s daughter and the impact of her later decisions on her own daughters’ lives. Those choices involved marrying a traveling salesman who sought out other women whenever he was on the road, as well as the two young girls in his own household. The poems are spare and inviting, lyrical and beautiful, charting the path from confusion and pain to healing and beauty.


Asylum evokes a family’s veiled history, shaken into finely etched poems of restraint and elegance. Poetic devices, including short imaginative Obits of the poet’s father, form connective tissue. The book is perfectly arced, the poems linked and speaking to each other. Here is depth: of emotion, family, and landscape. ‘My ghosts are slender reeds, / my family’s bodies sinewy / from hoeing and picking / — cotton bits caught / on stubbled stalks.’ Here is beauty.

Veronica Golos, author of Girl and Vocabulary of Silence

“In this trenchant and deftly crafted collection, Caroline Cottom plays psychopomp to the shattered denizens of the asylum, only to realize that she has her own repressed narrative of sexual abuse to unravel. Cottom marries the narrow path of poetry with a psychologically adept portrait of the survivor. Asylum serves the turn of truth and transcendence equally, and we are lucky to have it.

Lise Goett, author of Leprosarium

The grounding Mississippi River runs through this collection of always beautiful, sometimes, painful, poems. The poet travels the depths of family trauma — seeds sowed in the rural South — to the rapids of mental illness, to the sweetness of pie. The lyricism of the words and rhythmic variations flow with the poet’s memories and moods. Moving, with a spark of humor, this book gives hope through the darkness.

Rebecca Reviere, Ph.D., Sociologist