Zero to Three

F. Douglas Brown. Univ. of Georgia, $17.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-0-8203-4727-1
Selected by Tracy K. Smith as the winner of the 2013 Cave Canem poetry prize, Brown's earnest debut seeks language and music for the deepest, most knotted of family ties. The speaker's son, daughter, father, and mother form the thematic core, and as personalities of these figures guide the collection forward, the self is a point of confluence for forbearer and progeny, one "body overlapping another." Many of these poems are exercises in empathy, endeavoring to see oneself as "daddy" or to revisit a family narrative in the voice of a sibling or a parent. Yet, as Brown explores the edge where the self carries into the other, some of the most potent moments are those that reveal never-quite-bridgeable rifts that pervade even the most familiar bonds: a father without recourse to make a bold child see that she had "nearly drowned" when "The danger never hit you,// Never dawned on the ‘O' of your name"; a son left to reconstruct his father's final days from imagination after he has died suddenly; parents watching their child teethe, failing "to understand/ The world forming in your mouth." Brown describes the intimacy of a universe in which "Our teeth are the tall//Towers of a city already at its borders, while yours, tiny/Jewels peeking between sand." (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 02/02/2015
Release date: 11/01/2014
Genre: Fiction
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