things we like ft. Brandon Jordan Brown
In Brandon Jordan Brown’s poem-film “Satan,” a fluorescent prawn tackles an anchovy at what looks like the bottom of a fish tank. This goes on for a bit, and then, at the 49th second, a line of cursive text flashes across the screen: “Please pray for us.” Brown studied biblical and theological studies in school, and it is clear in his poetry that religion plays a creative role in his work. A 2014 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow, winner of the 2016 Orison Anthology Poetry Prize, a scholarship recipient from The Sun, and a former PEN in the Community poetry instructor, Brown is a Portland, Oregon-based poet who frequently collaborates with filmmakers and other artists. Here, Brown shares with us some of the things he likes, including theopoetics, C.D. Wright’s Deepstep Come Shining, and the Japanese band toe.
I’ve got a background in religious and theological studies, and as I began to take poetry more seriously, asking questions of my work—its aims, recurring fascinations, loose methods—it was a wild feeling to “look up” and realize you were sort of in a crowd of people doing what you’ve been doing (probably better, and probably longer than you). Anyway, I’m really interested in theopoetics, which is (in part, at least) a type of religious reflection concerned with our experiences and how they impact what and how we believe. It is also interested in bringing to life new visions of the world which, coincidentally enough, include new metaphors and ways of speaking. If you Google the term, you’ll find a lot of great info.
Recently, I was given a copy of the late C.D. Wright’s Deepstep Come Shining by a fellow poet and friend. I’d read a chunk of the book before, in Wright’s 2002 collection of selected and new poems, but there’s no substitute for encountering this long poem as its own in a bound volume. The poem is a clinic in compositional endurance and how to create a vortex of images and figures that are sensual and swirling without feeling thoughtless or out of control. Things come, go, return, morph, molt, and mold all throughout the book. I want to be able to write with that sort of skill and vision.
toe is a stellar band from Tokyo that I’m not sure how I discovered a few years back, but boy am I glad I did. I found out they’re coming through Portland in a few months, so I’ve been diving back into their music lately. To see them perform is to know what it looks like for a group of people to be fully present and immersed in what they’re creating. I don’t know if I’ve ever been as good at anything as each of them are at their instruments, but I do know that every time I share their music with someone, I have to resist the urge to say, “You’re welcome.” You’re welcome.
(Link to a great live video).
You can find more of Brandon's work here.
Thumbnail photography by Zachary Glassmith.