Book Review: Letters to My Lover From Behind Asylum Walls by Robin Sinclair
Letters to My Lover From Behind Asylum Walls is a poetry collection written by Robin Sinclair and published by Cosmographia Books in 2018. This collection is a series of letters from Sweet Jane, a mental hospital patient, to her lover, Eleanor. I found this collection to be incredibly honest in it’s dark depiction of what it is like to be trapped in the walls of an asylum just as one might feel trapped in their mind because of mental illness. To me, even if Eleanor is a real person to our narrator, Sweet Jane, she represents freedom and the need to feel like there is something attainable beyond pain. The stand out poem in Letters to My Lover From Behind Asylum Walls, for me, was Barcode Girl is Dead, which was also published in Pidgeonholes.
“Barcode Girl is Dead
I can only imagine your agony – envisioning
the filth of another in and on my flesh.
I can feel through the sky and walls and into my breast
how your pain turned to rage.
But did it turn to revenge?
Barcode Girl stood up at breakfast – without a word
and started to run.
She ran through the large glass doors that remain
for those of us in Group, and ran down the hall.
I followed her through the door – I watched her
until she turned the corner toward the stairwell.
She lowered her head and
dove from the top step with purpose and
On the landing of the staircase that separates us
from the world – her skull
hit with the sound of a stack of books
in an empty library.
She crumpled in on herself.
I could see in my mind – the faded green lines and
numbers under her hair, wrinkling like a soiled bed
sheet tossed away.
She fractured her own skull and broke her neck, and
the intern that rolled her onto her back apparently
made matters worse.
She died 17 minutes later – surrounded by
people who didn't know her favorite song
or if she liked to dance when she was alone
or if she believed in god.
I would never assume you'd be so wicked –
truthfully, perhaps presumptuously,
I assume that you've already forgiven me,
because that's the nature of your love, our love,
but I couldn't feel better unless I told you –
of you, furiously sobbing
and reciting incantations,
had crossed my mind.
But I know you, my love – I know you
better than that, and now,
more than ever, I know
that I must find the answers.
Barcode Girl is Dead is a reflection of everything the poems of this book possess -- strong yet violent imagery, harsh truths of reality, and dangerous devotion. I would also like to add that Robin Sinclair tells a powerful story here in a way that I have never seen a poet do. They write in this wonderful mix of the meat of prose spiced with the tender phrasing of poetry. I don’t want to spoil too much for you. So, I will just say that this collection is a worthwhile read if you are someone who is enthralled by visceral imagery and/or you have a love for skillful storytelling. You can purchase a copy of Letters to My Lover From Behind Asylum Walls by Robin Sinclair here: https://www.amazon.com/Letters-Lover-Behind-Asylum-Walls/dp/1732269033. You can also find Robin’s website here: robinsinclairbooks.com
Venus Davis is a 20-year-old nonbinary writer from Cleveland, Ohio. They are currently a poetry reader for Random Sample Review. Venus is also working on writing a poetry chapbook inspired by astrology. Follow their twitter for more memes, rants, and the occasional poem: @venusbeanus.