by Brandon Brown
You know how in The Prelude, Wordsworth rows a boat out onto a moonlit pond, awed by the susurrations of cattails in the lunar lit breeze and the poem latently suggests this experience was formative to his later development as a poet?
Well, for me it was just like that, only I wore headphones and there was nothing “natural” anywhere in sight.
Like the wavering foliage which inspired William Wordsworth’s autobiographical epic, “America’s Top 40 Countdown” is the catchy Beatrice of Brandon Brown’s new book. Writing through the Top 40 pop songs on the chart of September 14, 2013, Brown’s poems track the life of a song as it resounds through an organism. This organism bathes, reads, writes, likes, fights, loves, hates, and fucks; the soundtrack never stops.
“This book wakes us up to the immanent present, to a soundscape that miraculously contains Gaga and Drake; Norse mythology and Wordsworth; Oakland and cheerleading; addiction, appropriation, and grammar; all of capitalism’s ferocity as well as love’s many kindnesses. How endless this poetry will make us.”
“In 2004 the poet Stacy Doris told me she thought she saw a sure thing in young Brandon Brown, then a student at San Francisco State University but otherwise fresh from Kansas City, and I do mean fresh. Something in the notation of Top Forty, the most discursive of Brown’s books to date, brings me to its affective, almost silly surface of memory and feeling. One list takes the poet through a week of hits on constant rotation, and if you’re at all affected by pop or kitsch, Top Forty will make you think and fight from start to finish. Through this work shimmers the divine, just as it does through Rihanna in her bathwater, just as it does every time Miley Cyrus rebelliously places the accent on the second syllable of “molly.” I roar for Top Forty, I give it my applause, he makes me wanna roll my windows down, and cruise.”
- Kevin Killian
Brandon Brown is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Flowering Mall (Roof, 2012) and many chapbooks, including Tooth Fairy (2008) and Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (Cy Press, 2006). Since 1998, he has lived in the Bay Area, where he has programmed literary events, edited small press materials under the imprint OMG!, and written about art and culture for Art Practical and Open Space, the blog and magazine of the SFMOMA. He is a co-editor at Krupskaya, organizes with the Bay Area Public School, and lives in Oakland, CA.
Publication date: October 2014