Deana Nantz Reviews Harry Brown's "In Some Households the King is Soul"

Har­ry Brown’s In Some House­holds the King is Soul is a col­lec­tion of poet­ry cel­e­brat­ing the human spir­it. Brown’s eclec­tic vari­a­tions of form invite you to trav­el along with the poet, mus­ing in thought and rec­ol­lec­tions of God, nature, and fam­i­ly. Brown’s poems, sim­i­lar to his pre­vi­ous col­lec­tion, Felt Along the Blood, unearth the poet’s con­nec­tion to the cos­mos; how­ev­er, the poems have a touch of final wisdom—as if the poet has come full-cir­cle, tran­scend­ing his own truths. With met­ri­cal pre­ci­sion and rhyth­mic play­ful­ness, the poet, com­pa­ra­ble to Walt Whit­man, ques­tions his own rev­e­la­tions and is forth­right with self-contradictions.

Brown’s col­lec­tion is divid­ed into five seg­ments, the first titled “smörgås­bord,” which estab­lish­es the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry Roman­tic tone with a touch of down home south­ern appre­ci­a­tion. “BRAHMIN” states that “Those who know / say Thor’ eau.” Wit is car­ried on in sec­tion two with “God is All Ears.” Exact dic­tion and syn­tax are indica­tive of the poet’s rev­er­ence: “Blessed / it is / to lis­ten; / divine, / to hear.”

As a true Roman­tic, Brown places empha­sis on sen­si­bil­i­ty. And although he is an esteemed foun­da­tion pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish, Brown val­ues the heart over the mind in part III, homi­ly: “I hold no zeal on mat­ters epis­te­mo­log­i­cal. / When friends, how­ev­er, stare me down to make me stand, / I hot­ly shout “Heart !” with rea­son for my pas­sion” (“In Equal Parts”). Imagery and pow­er­ful action verbs ani­mate nature in part IV, farm. Con­fes­sion­al verse takes you to Brown’s beloved Paint Lick farm where he com­munes with nature and his chil­dren. “Becom­ing Cow; Or, Eter­nal Arrival,” is a med­i­ta­tion on birth, cat­a­logu­ing the mag­nif­i­cent event from the begin­ning, “Snout and jaws first through, / next a thin mask shows skin tight over fore­head and eyes, the shy rest hid inside a large heav­ing oven, / a black vol­cano straining”—to the end where the moth­er cow is cen­tral focus: “stand­ing in the morn­ing sun sur­vey­ing in sibylline / silence the west pas­ture, unaware in her soli­tude / that the herd lying togeth­er in the east mead­ow / as on every oth­er morn­ing as this hour / lounge and chew and stare, look­ing off into.…”

In “Song of Myself,” Walt Whit­man says, “I am not stuck up and am in my place.” Har­ry Brown’s hon­est voice sooths the ear with allu­sive poems in part V, folks. Emi­ly Dick­in­son, Arthur Miller, Shake­speare, among oth­er great pre­de­ces­sors trav­el along­side the poet in spir­it as he pon­ders life’s enig­mas. In the poem “Andy,” Brown asserts, “they should give of hori­zon only in every direc­tion / but back to andy / I’d add our minds are seers / for ear­ly fear of giv­ing / pre­dicts the grown soul.” Emi­ly Dick­in­son believes “The Brain—is wider than the Sky—,” and In Some House­holds the King is Soul, Brown’s heart is more expan­sive than a body of water, over­flow­ing with spon­ta­neous emotion—river deep.


Deana Nantz holds an MFA in cre­ative writ­ing and an MA in lit­er­a­ture from East­ern Ken­tucky Uni­ver­si­ty where she cur­rent­ly teach­es mod­ern dra­ma.  She also teach­es high school Eng­lish and writes poet­ry and fic­tion.  Her poet­ry has been fea­tured in Par­a­digm and an inter­view she con­duct­ed with Chris Offutt is in the lat­est edi­tion of Jel­ly Buck­et.

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