Saturday, December 07, 2013

Lily Brown, The Haptic Cold


I saw the bird throat
like a toad
billow out; thought

to take a picture
and send it.
I swallowed the doorjamb’s

shine. The threshold
breaks off as I use it.
The water has a breeze

says the dog-eared lady
who owns both.
The ripples

sit down flat upon the pond.

It’s been a couple of years since I discovered the work of Massachusetts poet Lily Brown [see her 12 or 20 questions here], author of a small handful of chapbooks, including The Renaissance Sheet (Octopus Books, 2007), Old With You (Kitchen Press, 2009) and Being One (Brave Men, 2011) [see my review of such here], and the trade collection Rust or Go Missing (2011) [see my review of such here]. New from Ugly Duckling Presse comes The Haptic Cold (Brooklyn NY: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013), hand-sewn with lovely letterpress covers in an edition of five hundred copies. Upon reading the poems in The Haptic Cold, fourteen short pieces in total, one is immediately struck by the combination of lyric flow, the slight hint of surrealism and the striking imagery, blended together and tightly packed in such a deceptively uncomplicated way. Nearly ghazal-like in scope, Brown’s lines strike a fine balance between thrust and open space, allowing the lines to breathe amid her fine couplets while expanding small moments impossibly out. From the Greek, “haptic” refers to any form of non-verbal communication involving touch, and Brown manages to articulate the non-verbal, sketching out a kind of descriptive internal monologue akin to a series of perfect silences.


If something outside the mind
makes the mind—

I’d rather a ceiling wet with river,
the elemental basement,
cement’s slick grit.

Up on the gusty terrace,
experimental glass takes yellow

light down into
its purple middle and
fits it in cellar grey.

At the bottom stair,
I play the alchemical fan

and its petals
wing the composite up.

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