Conventional Heresies, Jamie Brown’s first full-length collection of poetry, is just out from Bay Oak Publishers. Taking a short break from his duties as the editor of Broadkill Review, Brown took a few moments to answer some questions from SPR about his new book.
Is there a unifying theme to your collection?
The title, Conventional Heresies, is meant ironically. Rather than earth-shattering heresies, I envision “conventional heresies” as those ideas currently out-of-favor. Not so much large-scale thinking as personal-scale thinking. John Updike was once described as writing about three secret things: Sex, Art, and Religion. The trio of thematic threads which run through this collection have to do with Body, Mind, and Soul. They may not be appreciated by all, but they are a sincere attempt by a mature male at midlife to tackle subjects from a particularly (and peculiarly?) masculine (but not macho) perspective. One reader once told me that, “There’s a lot of testosterone in your poetry.” Another claimed I was a chauvinist. You be the judge, although this last is ignorant beyond belief. I spent eight years three decades ago as the home-making, child-rearing parent of two kids, while my wife was the primary breadwinner, and no one appreciates the strengths and capacities of a self-actualized woman as much as I do. Some people seem to like to make superficial judgments about others in lieu of actually listening.
Who are some of your influences, and how will your readers see this influence in your work?
Everyone I’ve ever read. Shakespeare, Milton, Villon (in translation), Dryden, Blake, Dickinson, Whitman, Keats, Shelley, EB Browning, R Browning, Burns, Brooke, Masefield , Edward Steese, Lyman Bryson, Frost, Eliot, Pound, Stevens, Williams, E Lowell, R Lowell, Plath, Hughes, Berryman, Ginsburg, Ferlinghetti, and countless others. You can learn something from everyone you read, if they’re any good and you pay any attention.
Who is your ideal reader?
A reasonably intelligent adult who leaves his or her preconceptions at the door.
What is poetry, and why does it matter?
Poetry changes the world and the way we perceive it, although not everything that changes the world and the way we perceive it is poetry. It’s a conundrum, a quandary, a moebius strip which leads us back to what was once thought lost, in ourselves and others, etc., etc., etc. and all that noise.