Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Muse: New Oklahoma Poet Laureate

I write a poem every day. . . I've done this for eleven years
. . . 365 poems a year. . . [T]his has . . . served as the single
most powerful tool to overcoming any fears I might have 
about my creative work. . . .
~ Nathan Brown*

The position of Oklahoma State Poet Laureate is filled by Nathan Brown, who succeeded Eddie Wilcoxen and will serve through December 31, 2014.

Brown, who, in addition to being an award-winning poet, is a singer-songwriter and photographer, currently maintains a full schedule of poetry readings, musical performances, writing and creativity workshops, speaking engagements, and teaching seminars (see the Events section of his Website), judges writing competitions, participates in photography exhibitions, and makes public appearances around the state. As Poet Laureate, he intends to meet and reconnect with the "vibrant community" of artists throughout the state.

Information about the state position and related resources may be found in my post about Wilcoxen and my earlier post about James Barnes, who preceded him.

* * * * *
What makes a good poem?
. . . I am after a good story. . . .
~ Nathan Brown**

Award-winning, widely traveled narrative poet Nathan Brown, Ph.D., is the author of more than a half-dozen books (available, along with his CDs, on his Website). His most recent collections are Karma Crisis: New and Selected Poems (Mezcalita Press, 2012), which gathers a selection from three of Brown's earlier books, Ashes Over the Southwest (2005), Suffer the Little Voices (Greystone Press, 2005), and the out-of-print Hobson's Choice (Greystone Press, 2002), and includes nearly two dozen new poems, and My Sideways Heart (Mongrel Empire Press, 2010). 

Several of Brown's collections have received honors, including Suffer the Little Voices and Two Tables Over (Village Books Press, 2008); the former was a finalist for the Oklahoma Center for the Book's Oklahoma Book Award in 2006; the latter won the award in  2009. His Not Exactly Job (Mongrel Empire Press, 2008), a 2008 Oklahoma Book Award finalist, contains poetry, photographs, and scripture. Brown's memoir, a combination of poetry and prose that pays homage to a close friend lost to cancer, is Letters to the One-Armed Poet: A Memoir of Friendship, Loss, and Buttered Squash Ravioli (Village Books Press, 2011). 

Everyday life treated with understanding and, where appropriate, a sense of humor finds prominence in Brown's precise, clearly written poetry — what Brown describes on his Website as "poems unafraid of making sense. . . poems that carry us  to better places." (He is a critic of "impenetrable" poetry and "bad" academic poetry that "means absolutely nothing. . . even to the authors.") Reviewers and readers alike cite his "emotional honesty" and direct, unpretentious voice.

Thematically, Brown's typically short poems range over the subjects of family, love, friendship, innocence, experience and self-understanding, mortality, loss, religion (his father was pastor of First Baptist Church of Norman while Brown was a child), faith and doubt, redemption, and place. His imagery is distinctive and always integral to the story he's trying to tell. Here's one example:

I drop the wet ashes
of that last relationship
on one end of the big,
brass scales.

And now, I carefully place
the sad pearls of loneliness
on the other side

in order for science
to have its say.
~ "Weights and Measures" from My Sideways Heart

Brown has published poems in a variety of literary publications, including Art Review, Blood and Thunder, The Blue Rock Review, Christian Ethics Today, Concho River Review, Oklahoma Today magazine, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, and World Literature Today. His work also appears in the bi-lingual anthology Two Southwests (Virtual Artists Collective, 2008), representing 27 poets from the southwestern United States and southwestern China, and 8 Voices: Contemporary Poetry from the American Southwest (Baskerville Publishers, 2012).

In addition to writing awards, including a Pushcart nomination for his poem "Little Jerusalems" (from My Sideways Heart), Brown has served as Artist-in-Residence at the University of Central Oklahoma.

When he is not traveling or conducting workshops in poetry and creative writing in middle and high schools, universities, and community organizations of all kinds, Brown teaches professional writing at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. 


Photo Credit: Oklahoma Humanities Council/Ashley Brown

All Poetry Excerpts © Nathan Brown

* Quoted from 2011 Interview with Carla McElhaney

** Quoted from Living Juicy Interview

Order of Appointment by Governor Mary Fallin (pdf), December 11, 2012

Oklahoma Humanities Council Press Release on Brown's Appointment, December 18, 2012

"Gov. Mary Fallin Appoints Nathan Brown as Oklahoma Poet Laureate", The Daily Oklahoman, December 23, 2012 

Nathan Brown Interview with Carla McElhaney, "Thoughts from the Wild Side: Nathan L. Brown", October 30, 2011

Nathan Brown Interview with Rhea Goodman at Living Juicy (mp3 Audio; 29:35 minutes), August 3, 2010. Brown talks about and draws a clear distinction between poetry writing and songwriting but says that in both instances he thinks about connection (with reader, with listener); with respect to poetry, he says what he's interested in is the "huge audience" that has "walked away" from poetry for whatever reason. His teaching, he explains, also is about making connections by "piecing together the right words so that they mean something to someone else." In the interview he performs several songs (from his CD Gypsy Moon) and also reads his poetry ("Leap Year", "Three of a Kind", "Threading Needles" from My Sideways Heart). He's an articulate singer and expressive reader.

Nathan Brown's Poems Online: "Too Far", "Alibi", "Burn", "Entropy", and "Beating the System", All at Nathan Brown Website; "Existential Solstice" at Sooner Magazine; "Death of a Metaphor", "What to Do", "Brief Ode to a Chocolate Mint Cookie", "Left", "Elemental", and "At Least", All at The Blue Rock Review; "Lyle's Big Hair" at Alan Bereck's Favorite Poems; "Verb Play" at Mainstream Baptist; "Biblical Proportions" at Sugar Mule Literary Magazine; "Natural Flavors", "Cotton-Picker", and "Southern Concern", All at Sugar Mule; "This... Thing" and "Broken" at Valerie R. Lawson's Barbies on Fire

My Sideways Heart at GoogleBooks

Edgar L. Frost, "Keeping Poetry Alive", Sooner Magazine, Winter 2012

Valerie R. Lawson, "Asking the Big Questions - A Closer Look at One Oklahoman Poet", June 25, 2012

Benjamin Myers, "Karma Crisis, Nathan Brown", Review, World Literature Today, September 2012

Erica Smith, "Norman Author's 'Letters' Offers a Poignant Look at Friendship That Lives On", Review, The Daily Oklahoman, March 28, 2011

TwitterBard - Open Salon, "Review: Ashes Over the Southwest by Nathan Brown", June 13, 2009

Video of Nathan Brown Reading from My Sideways Heart (Go here for a list of other videos with Nathan Brown.)


Tabatha said...

I added his latest book to my shopping cart -- thanks for the tip!

D.M. SOLIS said...

"...the wet ashes...the sad pearls of loneliness...." Beautiful quote. Your usual thorough and thoughtful post. Thank you for the references as well.