FINALIST FOR THE 2020 NELSON BALL PRIZE
"In a dark time," wrote Theodore Roethke, "the eye begins to see"—and with Braille Rainbow, Mike Barnes reveals both darkness and the light that shines beyond it. Beginning with a suite of poems completed before and immediately following his admission to a psychiatric unit as a young man, Barnes's quiet lyricism and formal sensitivity capture those moments of perception that remind us how to see.
Please note that the text of this book is not produced in braille.
Mike Barnes, a dual Canadian-American citizen, has published nine previous books across a range of genres: poetry, short fiction, novels, and memoir. His poems have appeared in numerous anthologies, and his stories have appeared twice in Best Canadian Stories and three times in The Journey Prize Anthology. He has won a National Magazine Award Silver Medal in the short story category. His collection of poems, Calm Jazz Sea, was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award; and Aquarium, his first collection of stories, won the Danuta Gleed Award. He has also published many essays, one of which, the photo-text collage “Asylum Walk”, won the Edna Staebler Award. His last book, the neo-noir thriller The Adjustment League was named by Maclean’s Magazine one of the ten best books of the year. He works as a private English tutor and lives in Toronto.
Praise for Braille Rainbow
"Remarkable... haunting... striking... [Barnes] writes affectingly of his struggles with mental illness (“a picking up and dropping again/of the pieces I could salvage/ in a swamp between dread waters and dry land”) but also of finding joy in small things." —Toronto Star
“While the 13 poems demonstrate [hebephrenia], they do much more. One poem (in its entirety) reads as utterly lucid: ‘cast your prejudicial eye / into the sea. as it falls / mumble something bitterly / about an eyepiece that floats.’ Another, ‘failed inventory,’ is as tightly structured as they come, each line building on the previous one — ‘the chair chaired the meeting / the pen penned the minutes’ and so on until the ‘I’ of the poem comes undone in an anguish of confusion and observation, finally tying together ‘I’ and ‘eye.’. . . But in case anyone thinks Barnes’s work is all dark (it mostly is), he does also flirt with joy.” —Quill & Quire
Praise for Mike Barnes
“Barnes writes like a contrary angel.”—The Malahat Review
“Timely, lyrical, tough, accurate.” —Margaret Atwood
“Masterful… The Adjustment League is suspenseful, exquisitely written and—at times—corrosively funny.” —Brian Bethune, Maclean’s
“Recounted in fragmented, almost impressionistic prose that is sharp as glass shards, The Adjustment League... is an intense journey into the underbelly of contemporary society, and a visceral descent into darkness. It is a powerful and original work, which succeeds as a mystery and something altogether deeper.”—Quill and Quire
“The Adjustment League’s superpower is in its crackling portraits. The Super takes his place in the queue of great damaged detectives (see Sherlock Holmes). ... It’s this Superman’s mind that’s stronger than steel.”—The Globe and Mail
“… fiercely alive, marked by a sharp, unerring eye for detail and a wonderful way with metaphors.”—Toronto Star