Drawing of a Swan Before Memory


Title Details

Pages: 80

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 04/11/2005

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2729-7

List Price: $19.95

Related Subjects

POETRY / American / General

Drawing of a Swan Before Memory


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  • Description
  • Reviews

How do we experience the world before memory, before language, before the senses have separated, or before the concepts of "you" and "I" have been distinguished? Laynie Browne investigates both the limits and potential of such an inchoate world in her new book of poetry, Drawing of a Swan Before Memory.

In a series of elegant prose poems, Browne guides the reader through the intricate development of human perception, where the haunting vastness of childhood slowly gives way to the defining features of adult cognition. Subtly nuanced verse constructs a world of color before sight and utterance before language-all the while aware that, ironically, language itself makes this ethereal world possible.

Browne's work places her amongst the loveliest natural historians of perception: Goethe, Bergson, Lucretius. Like them she knows that 'description becomes a portrait of not an object but a transference.' The indetermination and synaesthesia in perceiving here find their register, locating the poem in what remains unbound, to the side of the image. This same oblique site spontaneously invents the ethical, showing that to describe is to honour an unknowable receiver. These poems gently host our plenitude.

—Lisa Robertson, author of The Weather

In Browne's Drawing of a Swan Before Memory, an incisive meditation whose meanderings surprise and delight, reiteration of words and images invoke a terrain of ever-deepening perceptual events and journeys. The nearly formal modulation of elements that thread through sequences-light - color - courtyard - water - gold - tree - white-lend this poetry the shape of a breathing. Here, personal pronouns float, become a liquidity imbued with the sort of current that elides human with nature, generating expanded paths for both.

—Stacy Doris, author of Conference

With Bachelard's 'surveyor's map of (his) lost fields' as her memory ground, Browne seeks—through the figures of child, swan, and lover—to recover a wholeness from holographic splittings of recovered film, minute interference patterns in which the hood of childhood is poised as mythic antidote to the lover's body, leaving us with momentary apertures that allow our human longing for permanence to reveal itself.

—Kathleen Fraser

A consideration of the creation of language and memory. . . . The reader is left to wonder, to connect what is real, what is actual. Recommended for contemporary poetry collections.

Library Journal

Browne's portrait of the acquisition of language is both an inscription of love and a description of arrival. It reveals a great divide between forming and having, embracing formation in loving detail. But before memory, an image has no awareness of itself as image. Before memory, a drawing of a swan is lost in its own blindness. The ambitious project L. Browne pursues here is to trace this innocence, this pure voice, as it unfolds, as it betrays its blindness and becomes experience.

—Robert Mittenthal, Golden Handcuffs Review

About the Author/Editor

LAYNIE BROWNE is the author of several previous collections of poetry, including Pollen Memory and The Agency of Wind. Among her numerous honors and fellowships, she is a three-time recipient of the Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry. She lives in Oakland, California.