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"Artifacts, an animal presence, and 1970s dance fashion combine in this beautiful and strange book, towards a narrative of girlhood set in a briny suburb. ("The sea colonized us.") Thus, in these poems, everything is wet. Everything is both detritus and lucid foam. The body: "a girlish shard." In this vivid, near-submerged or dream-like world, I paid particular attention to the ways in which containment and incompetence were worked out by the writer, both as values and behaviors. These poems fell into my eyes."—Bhanu Kapil
Winner of the 2011 First Book Award for Poetry,
selected by Bhanu Kapil
Double Agent reveals the author's pet obsession: the comforts and dangers of community. While the poems rove across a range of territories—embassies, subdivisions, cottages, islands, compounds real and imagined—what emerges is a concern with borders, how they materialize in the personal and the political as well as their relationship to physical and psychological security. A secondary question is how the poetic self can move, sometimes queasily, sometimes bombastically, always uncertainly, through them.
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Michelle Chan Brown was born in London and grew up all over Eastern Europe. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Witness, Sycamore Review, The Missouri Review, Tampa Review, Gertrude, The Concher, textsound, and others.
She has a chapbook, The Clever Decoys, from LATR Editions. She earned her BA and MFA at the University of Michigan and lives in Washington, DC. She is the poetry editor of Drunken Boat.
OF THE MOTHERLAND
He sniffs her coccyx, a mango from the black market.
Ashgabat is lovely at this time of year.
Summer bleeds the rats onto the pavement (wretched)
but their whirled fur makes a carpet we can clear
in flying leaps, or high-heeled goose steps. Here, then
comes before if. The beds make us pale or bloodless:
nothing will hide in them, save for the stems
we plucked those wild nights in the communal forest,
in government-sanctioned domiciles. Take a nap
in wedding cakes, ignored by the dictator, who writes
slapstick autobiographies on the bodies of his wives.
He licks her backbone’s crucifix. Who lied re: the lack of maps—?
excerpt from Double Agent
A poet alert to every least quiver in the inner and outer worlds; the grace, gusto, humor, and intimacy of these richly vivid and unusually quotable poems are the most generous of gifts. Double Agent is an altogether enthralling debut.—Gary Lutz, Stories in the Worst Way
Michelle Chan Brown's collection takes us on journeys across continents by way of hard fact combined with the subtlest of strangeness, the eeriest musicality, and the most startling of shifts and observations. Hers is an entirely new vision and voice. This collection is a real achievement, but, most of all, it is haunting.
—Laura Kasischke, Space, in Chains