cover image Good Actors

Good Actors

Sommer Brown. Birds LLC, $18 trade paper (98p) ISBN 978–1–7346321–0–1

“If you tell me which Twilight Zone episode you remember best, I can tell you what your problem is,” Brown (Backup Singers) writes in her comical and experimental third collection. Survey responses and analyses appear alongside memories of “watching my child do the Floss and being a/ librarian and forgetting to buy deodorant last night.” The harried speaker, who appears as both daughter and single mother, exposes the limits of theory as applied to actual life. Who are the good actors here? The reader is told: the ones who turn off the camera. Performance is a trope in these poems, and sex a frequent metaphor: “Spank. Flog. Wail. Laugh. Spank. Wail. Laugh. Perhaps we are doing it wrong?” The speaker is acutely concerned with gender politics: “I write in a poem about an old friend named Melissa naming her daughter Melissa. How patriarchal, I say in the poem, acknowledging/ that because Melissa and Melissa are women, this act is, in reality,/ radically anti-patriarchal.” Brown’s central diagnosis might be: “Your problem is: You suffer when you reject the idea that/ reality is a many-layered construction, much of it out of/ your control.” These existential poems take an engaging and unusual approach to illuminating societal roles. (July)