The Poetry of Michael Brown and Valerie Lawson
On 15 March 2006, American poets Michael Brown and Valerie Lawson were guests at a small gathering of poets and writers upstairs in the Waverley Bar just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
President of the International Organisation of Performance Poets and organiser of the first Poetry Olympics, which were held in Stockholm in 1998, Brown writes poetry that is as effective in the hullabaloo of the slam milieu as it is in the more intimate setting of the Waverley. Brown was first published in 1968 and has several compilations to his name, which through the years have reflected his seasons of life.
Now in his early sixties, a man who looks as if he’s lived a little in the era of peace and love, and then some more besides, themes of age are strong in his current work, as is a pragmatic acceptance of the changes that deepening age might bring. He delivered a very moving sequence of poems about his mother, giving contrasting images of the sort of courage demanded by the depredations of advancing years, with memories of the unafraid younger woman:
This sort of work goes to show that the manic wordsmithing so often associated with slams is a somewhat narrow stereotype.
Valerie Lawson produces poetry that works differently, but well, whether you’re reading it or hearing her. At the Waverley, she ambled from person to person, looking people right in the eye, engaging them in conversational style with flowing reminiscences of moments patterned with vivid, earthy images intricately woven, deceptively simple. The Mother’s Day lilacs are:
Here, in ‘Lilacs’, as is often the case in her work, domestic details root poems that also carry dream and abstraction. Her poems move as she moved around the room, lighting on objects and people, drawing in impressions and essences, a tight structure of thought underpinning the ambling style.
© Jennie Renton; Poetry
© Michael Brown and Valerie Lawson