‘Endlessly inventive and marvellous’
With these endlessly inventive and marvellous poems Glenda Kerney Brown explores the things that she values, the things that she cleaves to, and the underlying tragedy of our human experience, which is that we inevitably lose (or are lost to) the things we love. Art has the power to hold back and make sense of this tide of loss, and with an artist’s palette Glenda commemorates the past, celebrates the present and contemplates the future in honest and beautiful poetry.
None of these poems are long (I would argue that they are all of exactly the right length) but they each contain a world of imagery, wisdom and experience out of proportion to their size on the page. Glenda looks at her family, her animals, landscape and nature, and, in language that is suffused with a vibrant intelligence, illuminates them all to us.
From the introduction to Rock and Lodestone written by the poet James Nash whose books are published by Valley Press and whose work has also appeared in many anthologies.
This first book of poetry by Glenda Kerney Brown is inspiring as she reflects on her gratitude for life, love of her family, nature, and animals. All this interspersed with deep reflections on her journey with Multiple Sclerosis, showing how the beauty of life can shine bright through adversity. It is a collection to read slowly, to savour every line, every phrase and every word.
Chris Moran, author of Dancing in the Rain.
Glenda Kerney Brown is a brave woman with a unique voice. Her poetry moves in a special way and evokes a feel of many ages. In this world, yet written in another dimension and coming from a soul that has experienced so much. This is a book that I will treasure always. Thank you.
Jane Sturgeon, five-star review on Amazon.
‘A clear reason to read poetry’
Much of contemporary poetry is the poetry of moment and incident. In some ways this kind of poetry draws on the work of the confessional poets of the 1950s and 1960s, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Anne Sexton, and Sylvia Plath. Autobiography draws out feelings about elation, depression, suicide, love, and the host of human emotions common to all human beings. In the poetry of moment and incident a moment from childhood or an incident in the nursing home or on a glorious day is taken and transform into emotion, sometimes symbol or metaphor, and sometimes meaning that gathers the poem into a narrative designed to impact the reader.
The poetry of moment and incident, and the work of the craftsman-like confessional poets, differs from earlier styles that strove for universality rather than personal experience or emotion. The young man and dark lady in Shakespeare’s sonnets were probably actual people (though no one knows for sure even after reams of scholarship has been done on the question), but the universality of the meaning in the poems has struck chords that echo into this day and time.
What is interesting about the new book of poetry, Rock and Lodestone (Bennison Books), Glenda Kerney Brown, is that it has elements of contemporary moment and incident poetry, but there is something more here too. This is clearly oral poetry, written with the help of technology that turns voice into writing. Like the poetry from Homer or the Irish bards’ times, even her free verse rings with rhythms of the human voice:
Sliver of dapple light, spring knifing long
grasses; white tipped, gold striped,
faster than words, rabbits
and hares, than careless birds, than thought. (The Lurcher, pg. 67)
When she writes a sonnet or in another traditional form, music’s effect is even stronger.
But the oral quality is only part of what sets this book apart. Aristotle in his Poetics demanded that poetry be universal. By this he meant that the sense of the poem, in concert with necessity or probability, should reflect principles appropriate to understanding the human condition, the universe, or, perhaps, the doings of the gods. Brown’s work comes from a place inside her life where the universal has become, at least in some ways, manifest.
Relapse and Respond 1996
I dreamed that yesterday a lump of flesh was skewered here,
pierced by the gaze of dead ones drifting slowly down to silt;
I dreamed that yesterday my love was passion flayed by rage,
which left its baby skin for wolves of grief as black as night;
I dreamed in hollow dread of tempests raging all within
a single tear, which burst and drowned a flight of angels pure;
today I woke to clarity, to think and know and feel –
sensation sweet and holy nestles safely in my soul. (pg. 32).
There is an “I” in this poem. It is therefore related to the post-confessional poetry, but like the best of that poetry, it transcends the particular. Brown lives with MS like her fellow poet, Chris Moran (Dancing in the Rain, Bennison Books), and the intensity of her experiences with life and disease sometimes bursts through into the intensity of all human suffering, where sometimes love leaves “its baby skin for wolves of grief as black as night” and dreams are “dread of tempests raging all within/a single tear” followed by waking “to clarity” and “sensation sweet and holy” nestled safely in our souls. The experience is universal even in Aristotle’s sense.
There are six “Parts” to Rock and Lodestone: “Shark,” “Rock and Lodestone,” “Slivers of Light,” “Across Time,” “Green Daze,” and “Epiphany.” The poems in “Shark” can be as threatening as the predator fish in a shallow bay, its fin protruding out of the water. “There is a darkening shadow at my heels,” (“Shadow 1994”, pg. 20) she writes. “Only twice have you wept your shuddering skin off” (“The Rainbow”, pg. 14). There is courage in part one:
Gaily I wade through brown and solitary life,
ignoring the clangs of my distress,
standing on tiptoe for a whiff of heaven. (‘Glory’, pg. 21)
But always there is the shark in the water.
Rock and Lodestone contains love poems:
Sonnet for Us
When thoughtlessly I turn to meet your eyes,
the ripest recognition floods me through,
in blind and helpless love, my old world dies,
calling to question things I thought I knew. (pg. 39)
Love, of her husband, her mother, life, clouds, is the rock and lodestone of the book. It is the glory that exists even inside of turmoil, the solidity of stone that provides a direction.
The book builds from its second section, sometimes turning humorous, sometimes serious, sometimes dark, “The sagging sun lets fall his weary rays” and despairing, but always working toward epiphany, the manifestation of the divine. The last poem in the book is appropriately about music, given the oral music in all of the poems:
The mermaid wakes the cello,
wraps her sea-silk tail around its heart,
enchants a pulsing horn to echo dance
upon waves of chattering violins.
Mindful, The Hallé splashes through. (pg. 130)
There is here, as in so many of the poems, a reaching toward the universal out of moment (the moment of an orchestra playing) and incident (a listener in her wheelchair in the audience listening to youthful voices).
In the end poetry is read for a complex of reasons: Music, craft, cleverness, the peering deeply into another sensibility, an understanding of life . . . This is a book that gives you a clear reason to read poetry.
Tom Davis, five-star review on Amazon
Glenda Kerney Brown writes about coming to terms with mortality. Her experience of MS brings a hard reality to the poems. She writes with a personal immediacy and directness that I at first found difficult to read. On second reading I have come to a better appreciation of the work and find it rewarding.