Stephanie Brown (2001)
I am honored to have been selected for a Literature Fellowship. My highest ambition is to produce work during the next two years that will enrich the nation's literary life. I am eager to do the work.
I. Little Red Riding Hood
Astrid comes from upstate New York.
She comes from distress.
She's enthusiastic about it.
She doesn't belong, but she tries hard.
Her husband hurts her, but they have a drug-free life.
They roller skate and take up fads enthusiastically,
Neon clothing and the like.
He's an air traffic controller, so they move constantly.
This time it's California. After the picnic
I said, "She reminds me of Little Red Riding Hood."
My husband said, "Yeah."
We were doing the dishes.
I can't say some other things, so I say this.
II. Plastic Surgery, Skipped Dessert
That simple woman thought I was simple, but I was not.
I was never simple.
Not trees, stars, plot.
She smoked her fingers down to the yellow.
She had the harsh hearty laughter
Of the women who believe the men will leave them.
All the mothers I knew went nuts.
Hair the color of a screwdriver.
It's a clichþ, but it's an altar.
Cotton candy spun into a knot.
Especially rich women, with art.
But I was never simple. I was never simple.
The way I was raised, the men never leave a woman.
She was a woman: I could not trust her.
III. A Woman Clothed with the Sun
Imagine, all over America, women are losing bone mass.
Brittle old ladies: we create them.
Coiffured movie sirens lounging around the pool transmogrify
into brittle old sea hags.
(They don't know anything: they just nag.)
Let's let them swim out to sea.
Let's give them a spiny seahorse to ride on.
"Good-bye brittle old ladies, beautiful ones-
Ride out against the horizon and the orange sun!"
"Feminine Intuition" read by the author
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20506
Stephanie Brown was born in 1961 in Pasadena, California and grew up in Newport Beach. She attended the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Iowa, and Boston University. She has published over twenty-five poems in American Poetry Review since 1988, appeared on the July/August 1996 issue cover, and was co-winner of the magazine's Jessica Nobel-Maxwell Award for 1994. Three of her poems were selected for the 1993, 1995 and 1997 editions of the annual anthology, The Best American Poetry. Her first full-length collection, Allegory of the Supermarket, was published by the University of Georgia Press in 1998. Her work was anthologized in American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon, 2000) and Body Electric: Twenty Five Years of America's Best Poetry from the American Poetry Review (W.W. Norton, 2000). Her essays on poetry will appear in two forthcoming anthologies: one about influence and mastery, edited by Stephen Berg (Paul Dry Books), and the other about poetics and motherhood, edited by Brenda Hillman and Patricia Dienstfrey (University of California Press). She has made her living as a reference librarian in public libraries since 1989. She is married and the mother of two school-age sons. She and her family live in San Clemente, California.