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Writers series hosts Poet Quan Barry

Posted on 04.10.2013

Poet Quan Barry came to the University of Indianapolis on April 5 as part of the Kellogg Writers Series. Barry, who was born in Saigon and raised on Boston’s north shore, read poems from her three books—“Asylum,” “Controvertibles” and “Water Puppets.”

Associate Professor of English and Director of the Kellogg Writers Series Elizabeth Weber said that she invited Barry to campus because she likes hosting a variety of voices.

“I asked her because I was looking for somebody maybe a little different,” Weber said. “I saw her read at AWP [the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference], and I liked what I heard.”

Weber also said that because Barry teaches English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she also is fairly close to UIndy. Barry received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and her masters of fine arts degree at the University of Michigan.

The morning of the reading,Barry spoke to an English class about the process of writing and teaching poetry.

“I find writing about specific subjects helpful,” Barry said. “Many poets write about themselves, but I like writing about things that happen in the world.”

Although primarily known for her poetry, Barry also writes fiction. She said that her experience writing fiction has affected the way she writes poetry.

“I think that my poems have become more narrative because of writing fiction, and slightly less lyrical. I wouldn’t say that fiction has ruined my poetry, but it definitely has affected it,” Barry said.

Barry said that she both writes and reads a lot of narrative poetry.

“I tend to find myself preferring poets who write about something, as opposed to poets who just focus on language,” Barry said. “I can appreciate experimental poetry, but it’s not what I really like.”

Barry said that she gets many ideas from the news, especially by listening to National Public Radio. She also said that she is inspired by her travels all over the world.

“I’ve been very lucky to travel the way that I have,” Barry said.

Most of her poetry deals with the things that she has seen while traveling, although she does not travel the world for specific purposes.

“I never travel with a specific reason, but it influences and informs my work,” Barry said.

Although she left Vietnam as an infant, Barry has had the opportunity to go back several times as an adult. Currently, she is working on a novel about Vietnam.

“It is not about the American war,” she said.  “It is more about the history of the country for about the last hundred years.”


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