Monday, July 12, 2010

Domestic Interior by Stepanie Brown

I like reading personal poetry, but it can sometimes be a a tricky world. There's a lot to be said for the reading of verse that is close to the author's heart. You can see their pain and joys, their trials and triumphs, and what's most important to them.

The thing is, if the author is not careful, these reflections can end up sounding like a long string of negatives, as though their life is nothing but misery.

When you're a multiple times published poet who received an NEA fellowship and run a library, it's hard for me to understand why you think you life is so bad that your poetry reads like a person who is at the end of their rope.

That's the case in "Domestic Interior," a collection of poems that, to me, is just too depressing and makes Ms. Brown's life seem to be one of problem after problem. And those problems just aren't real issues.

In a poem called "Private School," the focus of the poem complains about having to bid on art from children in the name of charity, paying outrageous prices. Another poem complains about a wonderful property that is apparently spoiled because it won't allow a certain flower to grow. "Education" makes it seem like Brown's liberal arts education was torture, because she was having someone show her rare Octavos from the 1500s.

I just wasn't able to relate to any of this. These problems are those many would kill to have, and to see them put on display like this just shows, to me, how banal they are. If the point is to show how awful it is that these are the concerns of upper class Americans, then I bow to her ability to fool me, because I just didn't get that impression. The personal links thrown in make them seem like these are Brown's real concerns.

Domestic Interior just didn't work for me at all. If it was meant ironically, I didn't get it. If it was meant to be serious, then I'm sorry to hear that. If Brown wants to learn what it's like to really suffer, I suggest she give up some of the things she's so unhappy about and spend more time with kids who can't afford a private school and wouldn't be allowed within 50 feet of a rare book. That's a real tragedy, and would certainly make for more interesting poetry.


  1. Misplaced the Ambien?
    Left a participle danglin'?
    Cell phone's out of date?
    Colors won't calibrate?

    First world problems!