Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Aimless Reading: The B's, Part 43 (Lee Ann Brown)


Polyverse
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Brown, Lee Ann
Polyverse


I used to own a copy of this book, but it seems to have disappeared. Luckily, the author sent me a new copy just this week. I think I met Lee Ann pretty soon after I moved to Buffalo in 1997. I had known who she was and had seen her at various readings and so forth when I lived in NYC, but we'd never actually met. When I took over the Writers at Work reading series at Just Buffalo, the list of writers to choose from for the first year had already been determined by the previous coordinator (Ted Pearson), so my job of consisted simply of picking the writers I liked from the list and asking them to come to Buffalo. Some of the readers that year were: Leslie Fiedler, Raymond Federman, Margaret Randall, Rosmarie Waldrop, Susan Howe, Dorianne Laux, and Lee Ann Brown.

Lee Ann read with Susan Howe, if memory serves (it often doesn't), at Hallwalls on a Sunday afternoon. She had arrived the night before and a group of us -- which I am sure included Bill Howe and Joel Kuszai, and maybe Kristin Prevallet or Taylor Brady or Alicia Cohen or some combination thereof -- went up to Niagara Falls. We parked on the American side and stepped out to the observation tower to look at the falls before crossing into Canada.

I kept telling Bill Howe this joke about a two-man submarine and he kept yelling at me that it wasn't funny. It was dark, so the falls were lit up by huge spotlights that changed colors every few minutes. As we crossed the bridge into Canada, they turned blood red. The mist rising off the falls looked like a bloody curtain. Bill called it "The Devil's Curtain." For some reason, I always think of that when I go to the Falls and see that effect.

We walked up to a sports bar to talk and have a few drinks. I don't remember much of the conversation, though I do remember Bill saying something to the effect of: "I can't remember the last time I wrote a poem 'about' something!" I was distracted for most of the night watching the Yankees fall in the ALCS to the Indians. Mariano Rivera blew the save, as I recall.

We were sitting outside, so it must have been in the early fall, and it started to get cold after a while, so we walked back across the bridge to the U.S. Passing through customs, they asked Lee Ann where she was born. In her inimitable southern drawl she said, "Japan." She then got questioned for several minutes about how a young blond American with a southern accent could claim to be born in Japan. (Answer: Military).

Here's the Dickinsonian opening poem from Polyverse:

Come go with me out to the Field---
To look upon the Rose
Whose glow -- remembers once the Sun
Gave Garnets for her Clothes

Her crimson Cadence soon will Stop --
The music of the Spheres
Won't cease -- but barely register
A Fraction of Earth's years

While Light still vibrates on our Brow
The Subtle minutes drag --
The Fly is droning with the Bee --
Our outer Bodies flag

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