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brown, drea

brown, drea

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Originally from St.Louis, drea brown is currently a PhD candidate in African and African Diaspora Studies at UT Austin. her work has appeared in a variety of literary journals most recently Stand Our Ground: Poems for Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander and Southern Indiana Review. drea is also the winner of the 2014 Gold Line Press poetry chapbook competition judged by Douglas Kearney. Her chapbook dear girl: a reckoning is set for release in January 2016.

blurb about dear girl:

Bearing an atavistic witness to the Middle Passage, drea brown ambitiously makes to write the enigmatic Phillis Wheatley’s biopic, but abandons staid biography for a grotesque and hallucinatory fugue. I wondered, with Dear Girl: A Reckoning, is the titular “girl” brown’s addressing of Wheatley or the Passage’s ghosts addressing brown? The collapse of these two poets into each other echoes what historian Stephanie Smallwood refers to as “anomalous intimacies” on slave ships. We see this blending again in the mix of conceptual, then formal references—the horrifying schematic of the Brooks, M. Nourbese Philip’s phantasmagoria, anatomical metamorphosis, and Nathaniel Mackey’s nubs populate these frequently nightmarish poems rendered in forms traditional (the sonnet), contemporary (the bop), interdisciplinary (the talk-show interview), and experimental (the erasure). Feverishly urgent, vivid, and unironic, Dear Girl: A Reckoning refuses passivity, amnesia, and despair, bringing the bones to our present to begin the work of healing. “The dead will have their due” the author writes. A promise? A threat? A blending.

flesh memory: an invocation in cento

from claudia rankine’s citizen and akilah oliver’s she said dialogues: flesh memory, ntozake shange’s for colored girls who

the world is wrong. you can’t put the past behind you.
it’s buried in you; it’s turned your flesh into its own cupboard
when you lay your body in the body
entered as if skin and bone were public places
witness bones on the atlantic floor. chiseled faces.short
vowel sounds trapped under centuries of sediment.
when you lay your body in the body
entered as if you’re the ground you walk on
mash potato. child. break it up.
the body’s truths and realities
the multiplicity of languages
the flesh holds

what does a victorious
or defeated black woman’s body look like ?
are we ghouls?
children of horror?
the joke?
a text, a language, a mythology a truth

you know no memory should live
in these memories

becoming the body you
don’t tell nobody don’t tell a soul
to live out the days sometimes you moan like deer.
sometimes you sigh.

i am trying to be as honest as grief will allow. i am
trying to be saved. i am trying to sin. i am trying
to hush these tears.

somebody anybody sing a black girl’s song

when you lay your body in the body
becoming the body you
sing her song of life
of infinite beauty
bring her out to know herself

when you lay your body in the body
becoming you
i want you to look at these scars
and be healed.


sestina: on pyres and shrines

black folk die as much and as hard as we live this is not a myth
stars gather like faithful congregants in our passing and wake
what i mean is they shine in memoriam slow-burn seven day candles
one day we will all catch fire burst into phoenix dare to remember
more than this. how to mourn this living, how to mend the body
feed the ghosts hear the ocean how to tend the gaps or live to die and repeat

already a pattern always this cyclic hold amnesia this live to die and repeat
the ibo walked home some became fish or flew i want truth in these myths
a language of survival encoded in flesh something sacred divine embodiment
too many stories to pass on when i die i want to dream them all don’t wake
metili speak in a chorus of shine and restoration til i re-member
my selves in constellation handfuls of gone too soon black the sky see my candle

when revering the dead prepare the space spread a white cloth place candle
white flowers spring water pictures, handkerchiefs jewelry give honor and repeat
all this black all this matter all this in memory
of pearlie shirley sandra texas
tarika tanisha malissa ohio
cynthia denise carole addie mae
birmingham was not a myth
one morning i will wake
biting jeezus between my teeth because my body

has bust into feathers over oakland st. louis because my body
is shimmer-fin in the bayou colorado mississippi light a candle
you cannot wake
the dead when they are waiting repeat
they are waiting there is no myth in this
you are not supposed to remember

water holds blood bone ink tongue this memory
this flesh this spirit these bodies
fragmented furies where are the pictures bales of cotton and myth
what are there names hum something by candlelight
rock and hum and breathe and moan resurrect and repeat
rock and hum and breathe and moan awake

rock and hum and breathe and moan in wake
of survival litanies of remembrance
repeat
remember once upon a burned and branded body
you had to swim or fly or be fire burn this candle
resistance is not a myth

some stories need repeating, one morning you will wake
knowing memory deepens like water mermaids are not a myth
imagine. the body survives. here. take this candle

 

dear girl: a reckoning Gold Line Press 2015

Gold Line poetry chapbook prize 2014 judged by Douglas Kearney