Lily Brown was born and raised in Massachusetts. She is the author of one full-length collection of poetry, Rust or Go Missing, published by Cleveland State University Poetry Center in 2011. Her chapbooks include Being One (Brave Men Press, 2011), Museum Armor (Doublecross Press, 2010), Old with You (Kitchen Press, 2009), and The Renaissance Sheet (Octopus Books, 2007). Poems have appeared in journals such as Gulf Coast, Pleiades, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, and Boston Review. She edits the online journal RealPoetik, and currently lives in Athens, Georgia.
Statement of Poetics
My poetics are
informed by the physical and mental experience of writing—the way that I
interact with words and their arrangement on the page as I write a poem. For
several years, I’ve thought of this process as involving not just thought, but
thinking. The poem is the record or representation of the mind thinking
alongside language in ways formal, imagistic, metaphoric, emotional, and
I realized in recent months that while my poems are representations of a thinking mind, that thinking mind had developed some ticks, particularly with regard to form. No matter what the content of a poem, in revision I would squash it into a similar form as all of my other poems, usually a form involving tightly controlled couplets or tercets with heavily enjambed lines. The motivation driving this formal process was a desire for semantic multiplicity: I wanted lines, stanzas, and words to have multiple meanings at once.
When a careful reader pointed out to me that perhaps my formal choices were hindering the thought in the poems, I started to reevaluate my writing process. I hadn’t really been considering my poems individually or in terms of their original (that is, pre-revision) content, but rather according to how I could extend their linguistic content with form. Thinking is heightened for me when I move lines and words around, looking at all of their possible edges and angles of meaning, and that process is a pleasurable one for me. But by privileging formal qualities over the thought that made up the poems’ individualities, I discounted the very thinking I thought I was privileging or extending.
I’m not sure what’s going to change now in my poems, but I’ve been spending a lot more time considering various formal iterations of the poems. They morph from prose to tiny tercets to single stanzas with jagged lines. Perhaps the new poems I write will privilege thinking in a fuller way, according to both the ideas around which a poem circles and the way revision can shape those ideas and give them a fuller articulation.
In the prologue to Kora in Hell: Improvisations, William Carlos Williams characterizes a poem as “tough” because of “that attenuated power which draws perhaps many broken things into a dance giving them thus a full being.” Williams sets this “dance” against “the continual hardening that habit enforces.” Throughout the Improvisations, images of stasis are set against images of flux; for instance, Williams contrasts a man “rooted in the earth of the place the most solid figure imaginable” with “a revolving mountain.” I like that Williams sets a geologic form in motion. I hope to keep my own poetics on the move.
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