Perhaps there is no present, and existence is built of the alterable past moving into the alterable future, and then through the opaque door of death. Or perhaps there is neither past nor present, as if the person were a ship on a journey through the perpetually mutating future. Kurt Brown?s collection of poetry, and the title poem, "Future Ship," highlight such convolutions of time. Brown is tormented by time. In the title poem he writes, The way out is the way in, and The deeper we move into the future the more we disappear into the past. Aware of the memories that travel with him, unshakable, he writes of family and friends, whole neighborhoods, villages, vast cities, or hunks of them? People haunt him. Like the deceased grandmother in "Grandma?s Rye" who is still demanding Get me my rye! It?s not a warm loaf of bread that she wants.
Brown?s language is informal, inviting, and very intimate. How surprising to read in a poem, There was a guy I knew in college…. Brown shuns formality without in the least diminishing the sense of poetry. An acquaintance serves as the instigator in "White Collar Crime." In the poem the acquaintance goaded him on in the perpetration of a rather violent mugging. It is dangerous to assume that the poem is autobiographical, but difficult not to. Some guilt never goes away. Feeling guilty is proof that you are a good person. So the reader may feel a growing warmth, a certain forgiveness for the human fallibility of the poet.
There is a distinctly feminine quality to Brown?s poems with attention to detail, as in "Who Knows Where," which builds a palpable mood using only the description of a 1948 Christmas tree. At the same time, a strong masculinity asserts itself in the less detailed barroom brawl, or the necessary [or should I say obligatory?] car fetish.
This poetry is intense in the best sense: It is honest, and deeply personal. Thus effortlessly it becomes universal. Most of all, Brown?s poems are characterized by their authenticity. There is no pretense, no weighty poetic device to get in the way of the clarity of what he must tell us. This is a book you will want to keep close by for a long time.
What Poems Say" tells us, All poems say one thing: death is coming? kiss your loved ones, say goodbye.