Nickole Brown Sister: Poems

ISBN 13: 9781597090896

Sister: Poems

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9781597090896: Sister: Poems

Nickole Brown writes in a voice that is simultaneously vernacular and lyrical. It is a voice thick with the humidity and whirring cicadas of Kentucky, but the poems are dangerous, smelling of the crisp cucumber scent of a copperhead about to strike. Epistolary in nature, and with a novel’s arc, Sister is a story that begins with a teen giving birth to a baby girl―the narrator―during a tornado, and in some ways, that tornado never ends.



In the hands of a lesser poet, this debut collection would be a standard-issue confession, a melodramatic exercise in anger and self-pity. But melodrama requires simple villains and victims, and there is neither in this richly complex portrait. Ultimately, Sister is more about the narrator’s transgressions and failures, more about her relationships to her sister and their mother than about that which divided them. With equal parts sass and sorrow, these poems etch out survival won not with tender-hearted reflections but by smoking cigarettes through fly-specked screens, by using cans of aerosol hair spray as a makeshift flamethrowers, and, most cruelly, by leaving home and trying to forget her sister entirely. From there, each poem is a letter of explanation and apology to that younger sister she never knew.



Sister recounts a return to a place that Brown never truly left. It is a book of forgiveness, of seeking what is beyond mere survival, of finding your way out of a place of poverty and abuse only to realize that you must go back again, all the way back to where everything began―that warm, dark nest of mother.

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About the Author:

Nickole Brown is a poet and fiction writer. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Kentucky Arts Council. She graduated from the MFA program for creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has been featured in many publications, including The Writer's Chronicle, Poets & Writers, Diagram Magazine, Lumberyard, Post Road, Florida Review, Another Chicago Magazine, 32 Poems, the Cortland Review, and Chautauqua Literary Journal. She also co-edited the anthology Air Fare: Stories, Poems, & Essays on Flight, published in 2004. She has served as the national publicity consultant for the Palm Beach Poetry Festival and as the program coordinator for the Union Institute & University writing residency in Slovenia. Nickole has worked at nonprofit independent literary press Sarabande Books for ten years. Currently, she is a lecturer at Bellarmine University and an instructor at Murray State's low-residency MFA program in creative writing. She lives in Louisville, KY.

Review:

At once fleeting and solid, Nickole Brown s Sister is a quietly moving, deeply felt record of the burnished world, a lovely album of one pilgrim s time on earth, thus far. --Carole Maso

Using umbilicus as guide rail, the speaker of Nickole Brown's Sister an unflinching and deeply intelligent first book undertakes a hair-lifting expedition back to her childhood so as to return herself to the arms of a younger sister both long neglected and longed for. Proving that narrative and lyric are never mutually exclusive, Brown pulls the reader down the rain-swollen rush of river where her past gurgles with the sound of diesel, to reveal the pedophile a man who simply // cannot stop. These poems, always stunning in their clairvoyance, advise us to take such experience and simply / bury it, but bury it / alive. I cannot imagine a world in which one could read this book and not experience the confluence of dismay and wonder. --Cate Marvin, Ploughshares

The poems that comprise this haunted narrative are speckled with waterbeds, frosted hair, home pregnancy tests, disco, cigarettes, and black-light posters. The story is of a childhood mired in the 1970s. It is a dark, almost unforgivable world, yet in writing these grim and vivid poems, Nickole Brown has dredged up that all too rare human gift mercy. --Maurice Manning

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