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Growing Old in Poetry

Green Writers Press 2018

Sydney Lea and Fleda Brown, present and past poets laureates of their states and both nationally recognized writers who’ve given their lives to their art, have conspired to write an unusual book of essays. They’ve picked a wide variety of topics and headed out as they respectively wished with each, covering a lot of territory, both artistic and memoiristic. Some of the pieces, like “Wild Animals,” are downright silly; some, like “Sex, “Music,” and “Food,” are provocative; some, like “Clothes,” “Sports,” and “Houses,” appear ordinary but are ultimately revealing. The penultimate pair of essays fall under the rubric, “Becoming a Poet,” but actually, the whole collection is about Syd and Fleda as people-poets. Poet-people. Poetry never completely goes off-stage in this wide-ranging and exciting conversation between the two. And finally, each weighs in on how it feels to be a poet in this age, at this time. Have the people-poets had to change?

“At times reading (Lea and Brown’s) serve-and-return feels like listening to a terrific radio program with your favorite hosts, at others sitting down for long conversation with your friends…Growing Old in Poetry is an important book and a conversation and a friendship generously recorded.” —Adrian Koesters, Brevity Magazine


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The Woods Are On Fire

Nebraska Press 2017

The Woods Are On Fire is Fleda Brown’s deeply human and intensely felt poetic explorations of her life and world. Her account includes her brain-damaged brother, a rickety family cottage, a puzzling and sometimes frightening father, a timid mother, and the adult life that follows with its loves, divorces, and serious illnesses. Visually and emotionally rich, Brown’s poems call on Einstein, Shakespeare, Sophocles, Law and Order, Elvis, and Beethoven. They stand before the Venus de Milo as well as the moon, as they measure distances between what we make as art and who we are as humans. In wide-ranging forms—from the sestina to prose poems—they focus on the natural world as well as the Delaware legislature and the inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton.

The Woods Are On Fire includes nearly fifty new poems, along with poems selected from seven previous books, showcasing an influential American poet’s work over the last few decades.


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My Wobbly Bicycle: Meditations on Cancer and the Creative Life

Mission Point Press 2016

In this book full of pain and joy and raw honesty, Fleda Brown, poet and former poet laureate of Delaware, gives us a real-time account of her cancer diagnosis, chemo and radiation, from the doctor’s phone call to the one-year, all-clear pronouncement.

Now everything’s shifted. We pretend there’s some solidity, some predictability. But being alive is more like riding a bicycle, balancing on two thin tires. Eventually we’ll fall one way or the other, but for the moment, we’re upright. It’s exciting, sometimes frightening.

Brown’s week to week accounts lead to the realization that one needs to face a wall-sometimes the wall of possible death-to see clearly. With great generosity, she allows the reader to come along through the darkness and the light.


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No Need of Sympathy

BOA Editions 2013

Any one poem in Fleda Brown’s eighth collection may touch on contemporary science, physics, family, politics, the nature of poetry, and the nature of reality. There are sonnets for all ten grandchildren written by a grandmother, poems about the Big Bang, about child labor, the moon over Paris, and tent caterpillars, all written with humility, humor, curiosity, and a deep love of life.

The dead seem like holes in the universe, each a random fuzz-spot, a sad little purse.


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Driving With Dvořák

University of Nebraska Press 2010

All our lives are made of moments, both simple and sublime, all of which in some way partake of the cultural moment. Fleda Brown is that rare writer who, in narrating the incidents and observations of her life, turns her story, by wit and insight and a poet’s gift, into something more. Driving With Dvořák is an unconventional memoir. A series of lyrical essays about life in a maddeningly complex family during the even more maddeningly complex fifties and sixties, it adds up to one woman’s story while simultaneously reflecting the story of her times.  Read More


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Loon Cry

The Watershed Center 2010

A selection of poems from Fishing With BloodDo Not Peel the BirchesBreathing In, Breathing Out; andReunion, as well as some new poems, all set in northern Michigan, with cover and interior art by Glenn Wolff. This book supports the work of The Watershed Center, whose main mission is to protect Grand Traverse Bay and its entire 1,000-square-mile watershed, which includes the Antrim County Chain of Lakes. All proceeds from the sale of this book go directly to the Watershed Center.  Read More



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2007 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry,selected by Linda Gregerson.

University of Wisconsin Press 2007 The poems in Reunion insistently turn back toward sources: toward home and the idea of home, toward the body, and toward objects that return us to ourselves. They always surprise, moving from quantum mechanics, wildflowers, and a Bobcat driver to a woman killed by a flying deer, magma becoming rock, and an invasion of flying ants. Fleda Brown deftly unites daily frustrations and suffering with profound psychological, physical, and cosmic questions.  Read More



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The Women Who Loved Elvis All Their Lives

Carnegie-Mellon University Press 2004

“What a remarkable collection! Fleda Brown has turned obsession into a series of finely wrought evocations of a period. She knows her music, and she knows that her early stirrings in relation to it were emblematic of a nation’s. There’s consistently high quality of phrasing in this book, and an astute framing of effects. Which is to say Fleda Brown has been able to raise popular culture into art like few others before her.”

 — Stephen Dunn  Read More



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Breathing In Breathing Out

Anhinga Press 2002

“Fleda Brown has such a wide ranging intelligence, such a large and quirky variety of subjects, and such facility with language that you come away from her poems amazed at the emotional impact under the entertaining and colloquial surfaces. This is a fine and original book.”  —Linda Pastan Read More




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Devil’s Child

Carnegie-Mellon University Press 1998

“This dark, ambitious narrative full of voices, echoes and whispers of anguish is deftly plotted and carefully crafted. Here is a challenging poetry of action and remembrance and the sheer, downright, daily human grotesque. But it is also a poetic sequence that does something altogether more difficult: it holds our interest and its own lyric balance at one and the same time. It compels the sort of music from pain which is hard to forget.”  —Eavan Bolan




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Do Not Peel The Birches

Purdue University Press 1993

“The poems in Fleda Brown Jackson’s second book . . . exhibit the kind of present-tense clarity one associates with Elizabeth Bishop . . . . To read these poems is to look through a newly washed window; the world is strangely bright and, at the same time, frighteningly familiar. This is a difficult effect to achieve—one that only succeeds when it is not an effect, but something effortless. In Jackson’s hands, effort is invisible.”   —The Georgia Review




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Fishing With Blood

Purdue University Press 1988

“A splendid collection of poems with the special merit of being both intensely artful and equally interesting. No one to my knowledge has written better about Georgia O’Keeffe, and many have tried. Fleda Brown Jackson has a good wit, a sharp eye, and a tough character.”   —Dave Smith