cover image In the Laurels, Caught

In the Laurels, Caught

Lee Ann Brown. Fence (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (168pp) ISBN 978-1-934200-64-3

This book has practically everything: six epigraphs, four sections of poems—concrete, found, lyric, and prose, and even a list of items up for grabs at a garage sale—while across the bottoms of all the pages, in a script typeface, is one long “RIVER CODEX,” which Brown, in her endnotes, tells us “is designed to be read either forwards or backwards.” This book, part almanac, part linguistic scrapbook, “struggle[s] with the anti-essentialists who say we cannot identify Appalachia,” and seems to attempt to do for the contemporary South what Susan Howe’s Singularities did for the colonial North. But here, while some readers may “like to be preoccupied by all the fluttering,” others could become alienated, as the line between avant-garde and all-over-the-place can be a thin one. Meanwhile, Brown’s tendency to reveal her own process and the literal sources of the book’s language adds a self-consciousness to her experiments. “I am sick with love for the poem,” she writes. “In pulling the threads out what is lost// sometimes to unravel is a good thing/ but learn to interweave// variations on an old pattern/ but don’t lose track of the old one/ so you can come back to its lovely form/ for another variation.” (June)