<Previous      Next>
Brown:
These poems started--as many of my poems do--as thoughts jotted down while reading, or in the case of "The Sale of the Universe," while watching a movie. I was watching Coco Before Chanel with my step-sister, and there was an odd exterior scene where the characters sit outside on a sort of veranda, in fancy hats, drinking tea. My step-sister and I were both struck that while this was actually a very still scene--physically, that is--the sound of wind was mapped onto it, as if there were weather. The trees, however, were unmoving, and the characters' hats and hair weren't the least bit ruffled. The sound of wind seems to have been some sort of sound-editing mistake, but it got me thinking about sensory experience, the expectation (for example) of our eyes when our ears hear wind. I suppose the poem explores how experiences with various artistic mediums--film, literature, etc.--set the imagination to work. So, while the scene in the movie showed me something about the relationship between sound and sight (and the normative expectations of the senses), interacting with art actually frees the mind to "read" in any number of directions, and the poem thus ends on a semantically open note.

Transom:
How would you characterize the relationship that your poems end up having to the experiences that gave rise to them?

Brown:
Poems, for me, are like condensations that combine a variety of experience into a controlled space, making a tiny (visual/formal) world that hopefully exceeds its formal boundaries in its suggestions or semantic possibilities. I hope poems can suggest different meanings to different people; I hope a "literal" experience transforms into something else in the space of a poem (and in combination with other thought, felt, imagined, or sensed experience). I think poems can take us both into and out of ourselves by accommodating these various meanings, thus showing us a broader world of possibility outside of our own.

Emerson says "To think is to act." Thinking is how my poems originate and evolve.  I guess a poem’s relationship to the experiences that give rise to it is a layered one, then: literal referents in the world give rise to a poem, and thinking transforms those referents. That thinking is the poem.