Molly McCully Brown’s first book of poems, “The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded,” is part history lesson, part séance, part ode to dread. It arrives as if clutching a spray of dead flowers. It is beautiful and devastating.
The title refers to an actual place. The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded was a government-run residential hospital in Amherst County, Va. It opened in 1910.
Its doctors were eugenicists. From the mid-1920s through the mid-1950s, thousands of patients, seen as defectives and moral nonentities, were sterilized without their consent. For many if not most of its residents, it was a house of horrors.