the louderARTS Project

Tony Brown

Tony Brown has been performing his work around New England and beyond for over twenty years. His poetry combines principles of traditional Western form and structure with ideas borrowed from jazz improvisation, punk esthetics, popular culture, spiritual traditions from all over the world; and the ongoing competitive performance poetry movement known as slam.

Tony was a member of the 1999 and 2001 Worcester (MA) Slam Teams that competed in Chicago and Seattle, respectively; in the summer of 2000, he was one of 100 poets chosen for the SlamAmerica Tour bus, a cross-country rolling poetry performance that spent a month on the road, traveling from Seattle to Providence. He is the publisher of 2x4, a currently dormant quarterly poetry magazine that showcases work from within the national performance poetry community. Tony has published his own poetry in various small magazines across the country, including Syncopated City, Echoes, Omnivore, Spoken Word Poets Anthology and Worcester Magazine. He has won the Worcester County Poetry Association contest (1994), placed second in the Pawtucket Arts Council's poetry contest (1990), and placed second in Worcester Magazine's annual poetry contest (1996).

He has performed in coffeehouses, rock clubs, bars, libraries, schools, churches, and other strange places throughout the country, frequently lending his voice in support of the things he thinks are important - self determination, free expression, and the rights of individuals everywhere to decide things for themselves. He is usually found somewhere in that hotbed of poetic activity known as "the Golden Triangle"čthe area bounded by Boston, Worcester, and Providence RI. His home reading is at the Java Hut (Sunday nights in Worcester), where he is the host.

Tony's chapbooks include Church and State, Spirit Knows Spirit, The Radioactive Artist's Sketchbook, Narrow Path-Falling Rock, and 6 (all on Doublebunny Press); and At the Place of Definitions and Lilith's Shadow (on Loyal Weasel Press). His eight and latest chapbook is One Spark (Doublebunny Press, November 2000).





FIRST LETTER HOME

I hear shouting, music,
vendors hawking sweet ice. I lean far out from the railing
of the fire escape to watch. No one notices. Everyone's
too busy being busy. The streets here are deep with people;
crowds sluice by below me, then stop at the corners
to wait for the lights to change; they cross, they meet, moving
around each other, cockspur eyes and elbows
never touching. Police cars slow-shark past children
who dash laughing through traffic. Anxiety slips out
with every breath, and hangs above us all.

I want to know everything, so I pick up daily papers, monthly magazines,
idly turn the pages, drop them after learning nothing. I have learned far more
from menus, I read menus incessantly, I am always
hungry, I never know what to buy, nothing I am used to
tastes good anymore and I'm confronted with so many choices - who knew there were
so many flavors in this world!
Jicama, plantains, bok choy, tomatillos,
starfruit, star anise, black thread fungus, prickly pear --
all on display here
in old storefronts
whose new signs are being installed
by men who paint and argue in fresh languages, while
the husks, the rinds, the spoiled and forsaken
pile up and up and up.

I have taken up smoking again. I have taken up walking again.
I usually sleep alone, and am only rarely lonely.
Today is Monday. I am tired. It has been a long weekend:
the sirens call long into Saturday nights;
on Sundays thousands of small churches fill, swell, grow ripe,
spill their ecstatic seeds on the street; earlier today I saw the face of a dead man
as he was lifted from the sidewalk. A pair of old women just pulled their scarves tighter
as they stepped by him.

I am learning to see everything at once, to pick joy from the cusp of fear, and to trust my lack of trust.

On the first floor next door is a café where I always have coffee before work.
It has display shelves full of Russian dolls - hundreds of them, communities nested invisibly
within other communities. Sometimes tourists tug them open, marvelling at what they find,
responding (without knowing it) to a silent summons from those hidden faces. When I see that,
I have to smile, for I have always heard this very clearly. To me, it sounds like:

We called you here.
We know you well.
but you would never have known we were here
if we had never broken you open.



© Tony Brown



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