Double Ds: Kurt Brown

Kurt Brown joins the Double Ds!

Brown is the founder of the Aspen Writers’ Conference and edited the Aspen Anthology.  His poems have appeared in the Ontario Review, Massachusetts Review, Crazyhorse, Southern Poetry Review, Harvard Review, and many more. His books include Sincerest Flatteries: A Little Book of Imitations, Return of the ProdigalsFables from the Ark, Future Ship, and More Things in Heaven and Earth.  No Other Paradise, Brown’s latest collection, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. Click here for more information on Kurt Brown.

Denise Asks:
Who is your favorite actor and why?

Kurt Brown:
This is a hard one —  I want to say anyone who makes me forget who they really are and convinces me that they are really the character they are playing. But that’s way too general. I could list a number of actors who always convince me — Richard Burton, Meryl Streep, Anthony Hopkins, Cate Blanchett, Laura Linney, early Jack Nicholson, much of Brando, Helen Mirren, Tom Hanks in one scene from “Punchline,” Jeremy Irons, John Hurt, Vanessa Redgrave, among others  (actors who have never convinced me of anything: Keith Carradine, Tom Cruise, Dennis Hopper, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Redford, Kathy Bates, Sylvester Stallone, all clunky and painfully self-conscious). But these are all English speaking, contemporary actors. Sometimes (often) totally unknown actors will sweep me away with their performances, and the best actors in any film are frequently not the stars but those in supporting roles. What about actors from other countries and other cultures? And what about the great actors of the past, even silent film actors? I love everything about Chaplin but his sentimentality. Kurosawa’s actors are stylized, but great. Sometimes, in some films, Gerard Depardieu; and the new French sensation, Audrey Tatu.  I think Claire Danes has great tragic potential. Dustin Hoffman has entertained me for years, but only as a comic actor. Some Australian actors whose names escape me at the moment. The brilliance of Antonio Mastroianni. But I’m only running on. I haven’t answered your question, only circled it. I hope that’s sufficient.

Dustin asks:
What book(s) had the most influence on you as you started to write poetry?

Kurt Brown:
This is easy: Edith Hamilton’s book about Greek mythology, “Timeless Tales…” etc. I read this book in high school on my own (one of the first books I read that wasn’t assigned) and it blew my mind. What thrilled me was the drama, violence, sudden metamorphosis, and surprisingly human character of the gods. But what really happened, without my knowing it at the time, was that the book opened me to the power of imagination. Film, television, and radio hadn’t done this, at least not as well. But readingabout the gods expanded the possibilities, for me, of what imagination can do. Text was far more powerful for me than objectified art because I had to create a world myself, not just observe someone else’s version of one. Somewhere in his work Thoreau boldly asserts that no great poetry has been written since the Greek myths. This shocked me: what about Shakespeare, Milton, The Romantics, and so on. But I can see now where he was coming from: the primal, uncivilized imagination untouched by culture and Tradition. Later, in college, Dante’s “Inferno” took me even farther, deeper into the possibilities of the imagination. I was stricken with the power of it, and I’ve never recovered.

Limp Wrist Limited Edition Chapbook

I am excited to announce that Limp Wrist is producing a limited edition chapbook, and it will be available in April 2009.

All proceeds from the chapbook will fund Limp Wrist‘s scholarship.

The Chapbook Roster
Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Dustin Brookshire
Kurt Brown
Denise Duhamel
Christopher Hennessy
Charles Jensen
Mary Chi-Whi Kim
Dana Guthrie Martin
Courtney Queeney
David Trinidad
Robert Walker

If you would like to reserve a copy, contact me via email The cost is $10 per chapbook– don’t forget, it goes for a great cause.

I will personally pay your shipping and handling fees if you reserve your copy before 2/1/09.

Karen Chase, Ellen Bass, and Dorianne Laux have all agreed to write a blurb for the chapbook.

LIMP WRIST Pushcart Nom: Kurt Brown

Here is another poem nominated from Limp Wrist:


It was not my fault. I had no say in the matter. From the beginning, my parents conspired to
subvert my ambition to be a poet: “No juicy material for him,” they agreed. Like Roberto
Benigni’s son in “Life is Beautiful”, or little Gautama Buddha safe in the enclosure of his father’s
castle walls, all ugliness and pain were kept from me. Death and the ephemeral were not my
playmates. When a puppy died, or a toy lay broken on the living room floor, my eyes were
blindfolded and I was whisked away and told that all would be well. And when the blindfold
was removed: it was! There stood a new puppy, and a shining toy, resurrected and whole, as
good as the original. Even better. I thought it was the original, that all things healed themselves
instantly, and from within. It was a joyous world, Eden without sin, without a fall, and I—its
little Adam-strutting around ignorant of apples, and sexless.

There were no clocks in my childhood, and mirrors were banished. In autumn, I was kept
indoors. When I went outside, it was always summer. The sun stood in the middle of the sky, and
before it went down I was brought back inside where lights burned merrily. And when I slept,
even my dreams were monitored, so when I whimpered or cried out someone caressed my brow
and woke me, only to rock me back to sleep again, singing. What had I to dream about! Morning
was a flood of light in which I basked, and I was fed with utensils made of pure gold. This could
go on forever, without tears or blood.

And then suddenly one day-when no one was looking-I wrote my first poem.

~Kurt Brown


The laptop is finally fixed, and I hope it will remain operational. Life has been a bitch since it hasn’t been easy to use the internet or access documents. As long as the laptop cooperates I will be able to restart the Sunday Eye Candy series.

Limp Wrist #2 will go live toward the end of September. The second issue will feature an interview with the divine Denise Duhamel and work by Kurt Brown, Nick Carbo, Ellen Bass, Karen Chase, Khadijah Queen, and more. I’m excited about the second issue, and the third issue, which will go live Jan 09, is starting to take a nice shape.

The only stable part of my life life right now seems to be work and writing two to four poems a week. I meet with a fellow every couple of weeks; we chit-chat then move into critiquing work. Yesterday, we met and did our thing. She was able to help me put some “finishing” touches on three poems.

Well, off to do some reorganization as my new filing cabinet is calling my name.

"Why Do I Write" ~ Kurt Brown

Why Do I Write ~ Kurt Brown

The question, for me, is unanswerable and surely almost everything in my life and experience argues against it. If I could help myself, I wouldn’t write at all.

I read somewhere that John Keats said if everything he’d ever written was destroyed overnight, he’d get up the next morning and start writing again. I’m only paraphrasing, but something like that applies to me when it comes to writing. Not being John Keats, of course, but the insane urge to keep writing words and arranging sentences into lines looking for that one good poem that someone else might find moving and important and crucial to their life. One good poem. A person could spend his whole life pursuing that, and never achieve it. And as soon as one poem is finished, which he might think is good and strong—a real poem, that is—he discards it as a failure, and begins working on another poem, hoping this time for success.

The process usually goes something like this: some phrase or subject or idea piques my interest, and at one point or another I begin to write; then I become captivated by the idea, and the writing, and I work hard until I think the poem is finished; then I experience a sense of euphoria, because I am still in the halo of intensity it took to write the poem, and I think “This is a good one, this is a real poem”; then, over the next few days, as I read the poem over and over again, I begin to see it is rather ordinary, flawed, a failure in fact. It has been robbed of its initial glory by a more sober approach, by the time it takes to as assess it with an objective eye. Which is the eye of a reader, not the writer. Then I vow never to write again. Then, slowly, after a few days or weeks, I begin another poem. This is what I meant by the word “insane” above.

Maybe, like Keats, everything I’ve ever written is destroyed—over and over and over again. I write in hopes of writing one good poem. I live for it.

NOTE: This may seem melodramatic to some, and I understand why. Some of the best poets I’ve ever known have a much cooler, more skeptical view of writing. Perhaps they only backed into it, initially dreaming about becoming something else. Not every artist is passionate about his art. If, as Edward Hirsch claims, being drawn to poetry—and to write—is something like falling in love with a real person, then I fell in love a long time ago and I’ve never gotten over it. Perhaps it’s the Muse I love, and she disdains me. Isn’t that the plot of a thousand novels and television shows? A little less passion might help my writing. I live for that, too.