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Kurt Brown

Kurt Brown was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1944 and grew up on Long Island and in Connecticut. He received a BA from the University of Connecticut and an MA from the University of Colorado.

Brown founded the Aspen Writer’s Conference, now called Summer Words, in 1976. It was there that he met his wife, Belgian-American poet Laure-Anne Bosselaar, as well as the poet Stephen Dunn, who writes that Brown’s poetry “plumbs and reexamines the familiar language of our culture, and simultaneously is a personal search for the authentic.” Brown later wrote an account of this period, entitled Lost Sheep: Aspen’s Counterculture in the 1970s—A Memoir (Conundrum Press, 2012).

He was the author of several full-length poetry collections, including Time-Bound (Tiger Bark Press, 2012), No Other Paradise: Poems (Red Hen Press, 2010), Future Ship (Red Hen Press, 2008), and Return of the Prodigals (Four Way Books, 1999). He also published six chapbooks. A selected collection of his poetry, I’ve Come This Far to Say Hello: Poems Selected and New (Tiger Bark Press), was published in 2014. Charles Simic praises “the range and originality, the beauty and depth, of the poems in this posthumous book.”

He was also a prolific editor and compiled several poetry anthologies, including Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem (Everyman’s Library, 2011). With Laure-Anne Bosselaar, he edited Night Out: Poems about Hotels, Motels, Restaurants and Bars (Milkweed Editions, 1997) and translated The Plural of Happiness: Selected Poems of Herman de Coninck (Oberlin College Press, 2006).

A founding director of AWP’s Writers’ Conferences & Centers, he also served on the boards of Sarabande Books and of Poets House. He taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Georgia Tech, and Westminster College and lived most recently in Santa Barbara, California. He died on June 16, 2013.

Selected Bibliography

I’ve Come This Far to Say Hello: Poems Selected and New (Tiger Bark Press, 2014)
Time-Bound (Tiger Bark Press, 2012)
No Other Paradise: Poems (Red Hen Press, 2010)
Future Ship (Red Hen Press, 2008)
Fables from the Ark: Poems (WordTech Communications, 2004)
More Things in Heaven and Earth (Four Way Books, 2002)
Return of the Prodigals (Four Way Books, 1999)

Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem (Everyman’s Library, 2011)
Conversation Pieces: Poems That Talk to Other Poems (Everyman’s Library, 2007)
Blues for Bill (University of Akron Press, 2005)
The Measured Word: On Poetry and Science (University of Georgia Press, 2001)
Verse & Universe: Poems about Science and Mathematics (Milkweed Editions, 1998)
Night Out: Poems about Hotels, Motels, Restaurants and Bars (Milkweed Editions, 1997)
Facing the Lion: Writers on Life and Craft (Beacon Press, 1996)
Drive, They Said: Poems about Americans and Their Cars (Milkweed Editions, 1994)

Lost Sheep: Aspen’s Counterculture in the 1970s—A Memoir (Conundrum Press, 2012)

By This Poet


Road Trip

The new road runs along the old road. I can see it
still imprinted on the earth, not twenty feet away
as I drive west past silos and farmsteads, fruit stands and hogs.
Once in Kansas, I stood in a field and watched
the stars on the horizon revolve around my ankles.
People are always moving, even those standing still
because the world keeps changing around them, changing them.
When will the cities meet? When will they spread until
there is a single city—avenue to avenue, coast to coast?
What we call "the country" is an undeveloped area
by the side of the road. There is no "country," there is no "road."
It's one big National Park, no longer the wilderness it was.
But the old world exists under the present world
the way an original painting exists under a newer one.
The animals know: their ancient, invisible trails cross
and re-cross our own like scars that have healed long ago.
Their country is not our country but another place altogether.
Anything of importance there comes out of the sky.
In Amarillo the wind tries to erase everything, even the future.
It swoops down to scrape the desert clean as a scapula.
Here among bones and bleached arroyos the sun leans
through my window at dawn to let me know
I'm not going anywhere. There's no more anywhere to go.


A man spends his whole life fishing in himself
for something grand. It's like some lost lunker, big enough
to break all records. But he's only heard rumors, myths,
vague promises of wonder. He's only felt the shadow
of something enormous darken his life. Or has he?
Maybe it's the shadow of other fish, greater than his,
the shadow of other men's souls passing over him.
Each day he grabs his gear and makes his way
to the ocean. At least he's sure of that: or is he? Is it the ocean
or the little puddle of his tears? Is this his dinghy
or the frayed boards of his ego, scoured by storm?
He shoves off, feeling the land fall away under his boots.
Soon he's drifting under clouds, wind whispering blandishments
in his ears. It could be today: the water heaves
and settles like a chest. . . He's not far out.
It's all so pleasant, so comforting--the sunlight,
the waves. He'll go back soon, thinking: "Maybe tonight."
Night with its concealments, its shadow masking all other shadows.
Night with its privacies, its alluringly distant stars.