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Zephyr Paperback – June 5, 2010
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As the one-word title implies, there's a certain directness to these poems, but it's not the directness of Zen-like brevity; rather, it's the directness of the snappy punch line; the elegant, quick turn of phrase; the wholly unexpected image that, once you read it, you can't imagine a thing being described any other way. Take, for example, the everyday malaise described in Mountain: "Maybe a map is a good thing / On those days I feel / Like I'm riding a rhino up a mountain..." (53).
Another fine example can be found in Tuesday, wherein Browne perfectly captures the combination of panic and numbness felt by someone who returns home to find her house has been broken into: "The front door's smashed open, wood busted, / Hinges broken, a dusty space / Where the TV had been, / And what you feel is Oh. / ....Then the police arrive, their radios blaring. / Sorry, they say, but this happens every day. / Oh, you say. Just Oh, nodding, wearing all / your best jewelry at once" (46).
She is also a poet who knows how to use line breaks (to flush out double-meanings, to create tension, to set up a joke) in an era when many other poets struggle with basic punctuation. Take, for example, the first and last lines of At Bloomingdale's Grand Opening in San Francisco.Read more ›
Browne is a West Coast poet blowing in like the Santa Ana winds--fierce, hot, and unrelenting. Her lines are fast. And while she will sweep you away, her words are still accessible to all. She doesn't hide her themes behind flowery language. She embraces her life and her body in poems like "Facing Fifty" and "Hot Flash: Two A.M." And she tells us her deep thoughts, "one day I won't think I am so lucky/ and realize how luck I am." She introduces us to her husband before they were married, with her "fork raise ready to use as a weapon against this animal...his silk shirt splattered with braised sinew." And we mourn with her at her mother's death, "I knew something had happened." Browne is a poet, but also a teacher. With an eye-out for the poetic Browne guides us through an authentic American experience teaching us a bit on the way: "The alliteration alone is admirable, and the cadence--/nothing better than iambic pentameter:/Two Clerics Hacked to Death in Holy City."
Browne gives you the range of emotion. From sadness: "Your one hope was to be the saddest person alive/and win an award. The Blue Ribbon of Despair." To the upbeat: "Let us live for passion,/ for the taking off of clothes,/tossing them over our shoulder." Susan Browne is a poet of our time, for our time. And if you are skeptical about poetry she, don't worry, she is too:
"What can I say right now that's worth
the money I need to live,
and why should I receive this honor?
Why is the scarlet ibis flying over the crematorium.