THE SLEEP THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING

Lee Ann Brown, Author . Wesleyan Univ. $30 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8195-6621-8 ISBN 978-0-8195-6622-5

"Everything seems real decadent as the decade rolls up," writes Brown in this enormous, huge-hearted second collection, and it seems truer than ever as the new decade rolls further out. Brown's debut, Polyverse, made a joyful, polyphonic noise in 1999, and this Sleep, collecting more than five years of work, is less somnolent than restorative and wonderfully wakeful. Brown's poems were a feature of the hugely distributed dELiA's freebie book How 2 Write Love Poems that Don't Suck, and she amply makes good on that book's promise here. "Insufflation" finds her speaker "Setting myself up to be toughened/ a spectrum of hair/ Unanthologized Beat/ spun out into/ reading," while the book's central series, "The Voluptuary Lion Poems of Spring," teases that "my poetry/ Risks gushing kisses so I close my song,/ Anticipating our playing alone." While poems like the evil-channeling "Ballad of Susan Smith" ("Black Man, Black Man, I accuse you") show Brown reviving a turbulent genre to terrific effect, the sheer number of joyous allusions, invocations and dedications here—along with sections of "Estivation," "Devastation" and "Vibratory Odes"—make this a book a primer of democratic loving, working to "Make a new life/ For those around us fully/ and for those/ To come// To come/ To." (Mar.)

Forecast:Brown, perhaps the most credible candidate for Queen of the New York poetry scene, should solidify her national reputation with this title. Since some of Brown's sophisticated, adult poems seem composed on, as Brown puts it, "Power Beauty Girl Stationery," it could be powerfully displayed along with other books recent books exploring the construction of girlhood, such as Lauren Greenfield's Girl Culture and Alissa Quart's Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers (Forecasts, Nov. 25, 2002).

Reviewed on: 02/17/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
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