The University of Wisconsin Press



The Room Where I Was Born
Brian Teare

The Brittingham Prize in Poetry
Ronald Wallace, General Editor

Winner of the 2003 Brittingham Prize in Poetry, selected by Kelly Cherry

An architecture equally poetry, fairy-tale, autobiography, and fiction, The Room Where I Was Born rebuilds the house of the lyric from fragments salvaged from experience and literature. Though the poems are borne out of the intersection of violence and sexuality, they also affirm the tenderness and compassion necessary to give consciousness and identity sufficient meaning. Its language the threshold over which the brutal crosses into the beautiful, this collection is an achievement of courage and vision.

Brian Teare’s poetry is turning the lyric on its ear, along with the Southern Gothic, the fairy tale, the Old Testament—anything that gets in the way of his powerful voice gets pulled in, chewed up, spit out as a new and frightening (and sexy!) utterance. No one is safe in any of these poems, in any sense of the word. What a brave new voice, livid and gutsy and fresh.”
—D. A. Powell, author of Tea and Lunch

Precious few first books possess the range, ambition, and erudition of Brian Teare’s. Yet Teare’s formidable intelligence always derives from emotional necessity, from an urgency of feeling and a sure command of song which allow him to meet with courage subjects that are sometimes harrowing, sometimes sublime. The Room Where I Was Born is a remarkable debut.”
—David Wojahn, author of Spirit Cabinet

In some poetry you feel there is too little lived experience—here you feel there is almost more than you can take in: you must both let the lines carry you swiftly, as they do, and read them slowly, for all they give you to ponder. For all their differences—and they are almost night and day—I would place this book next to the coming-of-age classic Housekeeping, for its deep, eerie beauty.”
—Jean Valentine, author of Cradle of the Real Life

Poem by poem, The Room Where I Was Born posits a house of words that is, however, a house ‘the size and shape of not-telling / not hearing.’ Probing the relationship of metaphor and point-of-view to silence and the ‘literal’ world, these poems’ notable power lies in their daring to speak the truth, to hear and tell. Sensual, and smart as blazes, the poet’s language, with its hypnotic recapitulations of image and motif, moves us to the deepest of interiors, the secret-holding chambers of the human heart. Teare’s book is almost miraculously gracious and forgiving.”
—Kelly Cherry, Brittingham Prize judge and author of Rising Venus: Poems.

Brian Teare is a 2003 National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellow. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, his poetry has appeared in Ploughshares, Boston Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Pleiades, and Colorado Review. This is his first book.

Brian Teare has been nominated for the Bay Area BookReviewers Award in 2004, for Northern California authors. He is one of five nominees in the Poetry category.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

cover of Teare's book is purple-toned photo of a tree, seen from both above and below ground. Roots and Branches.

October 2003
LC: 2003006271
6 x 9

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Paper $16.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-19404-8
ISBN 978-0-299-19400-0
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