About the Writer
By way of introduction… I was born and raised in Providence and have been resident in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1959. I wrote my first poem (doggerel, of course) in 1948 at age 11. In 1955 I shared authorship of a small chapbook called two in you th with my friend (and printer) Darrell Hyder. In 1961 some of my poetry was included in a bilingual anthology edited by Gregory Corso titled Junge Amerikanische Lyrik (which included many of the same poets Donald Allen selected to use in his anthology The New American Poetry 1945-1960). In the 1960s my poetry was published in Richard Duerden’s Rivoli Review, Stan Persky’s Open Space and in Bill Levy’s The Insect Trust Gazette after which I discontinued submitting poems for publication in magazines. Since then I have had several limited edition chapbooks printed. Last year a collection of 100 poems called Debris was published by Ithuriel’s Spear.
My mother, Violet Greer Graham, read poetry out loud. Her New England accent was clean and clear. She was really superb when it came to ecphonesis. Her voice gave life to the cold, coded page. She spoke Whittier, Wordsworth, Longfellow, and, as a concession to my slightly more than infant ears, included Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-glass, and A Child's Garden of Verses. To this day Lewis Carroll shakes me up. My much older sisters, June and Avis, would recite long 19th century romantic narratives from memory as well as declaim from Shakespeare. So, from early years, poetry was sound not letters. That auditory wonder branded me like a growing calf. I preferred radio to books. Since then I experience poems as scripts to be performed. This is from Jack Spicer:
Thirty years ago* Vachel Lindsay saw that poetry must connect itself to vaudeville if it was to regain its voice. (Shakespeare, Webster and Marlowe had discovered this three centuries before him.) Our problem today is to make this connection, to regain our voices. We must become singers, become entertainers. We must stop sitting on the pot of culture.
*ed. note: That puts it at about 1919.
When I was thirty I stopped submitting poems for publication in magazines. Print seemed irrelevant. People who looked at poetry did mainly just that—look at it. Although I am not immune to appreciation, I was also uncomfortable with what appeared to be, by and large, a competition. Getting printed seemed somehow self-serving and a distraction from what the poetry was actually worth. Now, a septuagenarian, I'm beginning to recognize a rebirth of a community of people who read their poems to other poets and to anyone who's interested. I want to offer the words I've cornered with a few of them. I'm using this amazing technology—the internet—as a way of joining in. But, emphatically, I do believe it's the poem that matters; the person who writes it is eventually dust or already dead, and so what.
Copyright 2011 Lewis DeForest Brown
Photo by Adra Anne Brown