Mount Shasta poet's book explores wonders of the spoken word
"Language be my bronco; swift me bumpalong over rock and rill, challenges of folded ground, unfenced ranges," writes Mount Shasta's Jim Brown in the poem that gave his first book its name.
"I think it is my wildest poem," Brown said, and the one of which he's most fond.
Reading his poetry aloud, Brown's face lights up, his voice is expressive; he talks with his hands as the feeling of the poem swells and blossoms.
"Syntax my saddle be, cinched tight so no slipping as gallop through sage thought thickets; nuance, my reins," Brown continues, eliciting images of words and language as wild as a bucking bronco "beneath the listening sky."
Brown will read from his book at the Mount Shasta Library on Sunday, Feb. 10, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Joining him will be fellow poets Jill Gardner and Beth Beurkens.
Though he has been writing poetry for more than 50 years, "Language be my Bronco" is Brown's first book – a 75th birthday present from his wife, Molly, who published it through her micro-publishing house, Psychosynthesis Press.
Brown said he had a difficult time selecting just 75 of his approximately 150 finished poems to include in the book. He decided to include 76.
Many of the poems were written in the past nine years since he moved to Mount Shasta from New Mexico. They fit loosely into eight themes. Some are free verse, others with rhyme and structure.
"Often, when I write a poem that rhymes, it's to mark a special occasion and because it feels good to use an interesting structure," Brown said.
He usually doesn't use confining conventions, though there are poems in the book "that straddle my respect for economy of expression and my love of ebullient flow," Brown writes in the book's introduction. "The spirit of haiku often looks over my shoulder, but just as often the shades of Kerouac, Cassady and Ginsburg tug at my arm saying, "c'mon man, let's go!"
Brown said his love of language began at an early age. He's always been an avid reader of both fiction and poetry, and he wrote his first poem as a sophomore in college for a philosophy course.
He said he wanted to be a creative writer who writes about people, but to do that effectively he wanted to know more about them. So he pursued a career in psychology.
He didn't do much with his poetry until coming to Mount Shasta in 2004 and attending an open mic at The Stage Door, hosted by the Mount Shasta Writers Series.
"I had never read my poetry out loud before, and I always wanted to see what it was like," Brown said. "I read, and it went over pretty well. I was hooked."
After forming a connection with the Writers Series, which has since disbanded, Brown said he began writing more and reading his poetry aloud.
"My heart swells with gratitude as I remember how I have benefited from (my friends') steady moral support and coaching, how much I learned simply by being in their presence and hearing them read their work over the years," Brown said.
Among the names mentioned in Brown's dedication and acknowledgments are Michael McMahon (who founded the Series), Charles Goodrich, Clemens Starck, Jerry Martien, David Lee, Paul Hunter, Jill Gardner, Maria Fernandez, Charlie Unkefer, Michael Zanger and Carly Furry.
"For people contemplating getting serious about writing poems, it's my own experience that it takes a village. It takes group involvement. By nature, writing is a solitude endeavor, and it's really meant to be shared... Poetry is a spoken art. I always read my poems out loud to see how they sound, not just how they look."
Brown said he doesn't write poems every day, but only when he's inspired to present images of a moment, or a series of moments, which light up his soul and "cause a memorable shift in understanding."
"Language be my Bronco" is available locally at The Booknook in Mount Shasta and online at Amazon.com.