Among younger American poets, Lee Ann Brown is one of the wittiest and most inventive. Her new book, Polyverse, comes from the stylish Sun and Moon Press in their New American Poets Series. Here's flavor. First, one about the fact that poetry only goes so far:
Words weren't enough for her. She often made high cat cries and danced hard on the blue carpet.
Brown lives in New York and pays attention. Here's something from public transit, a sort of urban disorientation haiku:
Subway Exchange What time is it? A little after nine. At night, right?
And she is given to small observations, wry, ordinary, to which she sometimes gives a little spin with her titles. Like this:
South of the Mind Covered with lotion I watch TV
One of her poems is called "Definitions at 3:15"; it includes this:
Poetry a condensed form of food & time
and, my favorite, this (you may have noticed that all serious academics use this word constantly of late):
Discourse talking fancy without much to drink
This is, I guess, inspired doodling, something in the spirit of the late New York poet Frank O'Hara. One of the things I like about Brown is that she plays with the world, with her perceptions, and with language. She's always giving it a second look. She's the editor of a small press called Tender Buttons, named for a famous prose poem of Gertrude Stein's. So that is another influence. Some of her pieces look like not much -- this one, for example:
Cafeteria Ice Tea Cream corn Fried okra plus one meat
I don't know what she had in mind here. But the day after reading it, I drove by a sports arena with a banner hanging from it and mentally readjusted the sign so that it said "TRACK MEAT." This suggested other possibilities: "I'll be down to meat you in a taxi honey," "Meat me in St. Louis, Louie." Conversely, I thought, butcher shops could help redefine the principal interaction between humans and other animal species by putting up a sign that said "FRESH MEET." "One meat" seemed like it might make a good slogan for some group. Animal rights activists? The United Nations? Anyway, this cocking of the hat of language and wearing it a little askew can be playfully subversive and can freshen attention.
In one series of poems, Brown turns the method to the description of flowers. Here's a little summer garland:
Pansy Showy, invisible not concerned with cherry pit Five sepals, four with black, one cherry dot leaves mutate Back hook hooded, capped point thin vein mouth monk's rigid tuning to a hard yellow
"Monk's rigid tuning"? Maybe she means Gregorian chant -- for the way the flower flares from its dark center to its bright petals.
Peony moist white collapse Marilyn's red kiss tissue soft drop all at table bunching tinged range: mauve, magenta, white carnation blue collar of ants populate taste parts traditionally departing painfully from an idea
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Document URL: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/brown-per-hass.html
Last modified: Wednesday, 18-Jul-2007 16:24:45 EDT