Asylum Garden – after Van Gogh by Alan Catlin


Asylum Garden – after Van Gogh is a book about seeing: what we see and how we see it. The collection begins with the artist, Van Gogh, during his rest cure at an asylum following a general emotional and physical collapse. He begins to paint landscapes, gardens, peaceful scenes, gradually internalizing what he sees. Upon his release, his vision incorporates a whole new way of seeing: slightly altered landscapes and nightscapes, everything off-center, self-portraits showing a more fraught, perhaps demented, personality. Everything he does, is emotionally charged and completely unique.

As the word asylum implies, where the artist resides, is a place of refuge for the artist but it is also an institution. A mental institution, with all its particular sets of rules, regulations, and treatments may range from the well-meaning, but often unintentionally cruel, to a place of outright torture. The artist is at rest, the artist is tormented. Then the artist dies.

A peaceful, elegiac scene, in an-inspired-by-Whistler poem, opens a door to another place. The artist undergoes a transmigration of the mind to where there is life in death, and death in life. The later poems become a broad visualization, a verbal journey through a perplexing world of the deep relationships between art and madness, life in death.

A peaceful winter scene becomes an elegy, death is a direction, art is the tool of the imagination that takes you from familiar places to those places deep inside. The non-existent photographs direct the reader to see things that appear on the paper but exist only in the mind. Later, actual photographs key responses that take you to particular places: times of upheaval and strife. We move through time and space, a time of revolution, chaos, assassination and radical politics, to where we live now, on the edge, where art and madness, life and death, meet, in the imagination.

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  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 114
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: January, 2020
  • ISBN: 978-1-948017-67-1


Late Self-Portrait
as Hunchback of Notre Dame
after Van Gogh

His face is bloated from
an excess of alcohol and desire,

all seven sins, on a downcast
afternoon. Work cannot

alleviate the pain of wanting
what isn’t there. He adds

the missing details only
he can see: the hump on his back,

a hissing harelip lisp, a swollen growth
on his neck. His lone good eye

follows you wherever you go.


Alan CatlinAlan Catlin is retired from his unchosen career in the “Hospitality Industry”. During that time he worked as a proof checker, crowd control expert, clean up man, the grim sweeper, bartender, college tavern manager, management trainee for a national restaurant, night manager of a chain hotel, banquet bartender and coordinator, night club head bartender, nightclub beverage manager, responsible for ordering, stocking and selling over a million dollars, in 70’s dollars, and finally, both part time night guy, then, full time day guy in an Irish tavern. During his six decade publishing career, he has released countless chapbooks and full length books of prose and poetry. Among those are Effects of Sunlight on Fog (Bright Hill), Self-Portrait of the Artist Afraid of His Self-Portrait (March Street) American Odyssey and Wild Beauty (Future Cycle Press), Blue Velvet (winner of 2017 Slipstream Chapbook Contest), Hollyweird (Nightballet Press), Walking Among Tombstones in the Fog ( Presa Press) and Last Man Standing (Lummox Press).

Additional information

Weight 7.6 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .375 in