The Desires of Letters

Laynie Browne's epistolary essay-poems are a direct homage to Bernadette Mayer's The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters, but they are also a tribute to many other writers, from Henry James to Proust to Stein, as referenced in the book's twenty-plus alternative titles. The book presents an intimate and compelling look at the female artist through subject matter that is at times domestic, at times political, and often both at once. While on occasion facing, and writing through, isolation and exhaustion: "Have to call everybody birthday can’t keep up with cards or the season or planning parties or have anything clean to wear or unpacking suitcases, or thoughts or that dash of connectiveness," this collection nevertheless reaches constantly toward connectivity, invoking family, friends, and mentors while culling literature, news, and personal anecdotes to make meaning from the daily negotiations between self and surroundings.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets, fall 2010, issue 39.