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Poet Tony Brown

By Bill MacMillan

Tony Brown

Tony Brown

Tony Brown celebrated his 50th birthday this spring with a featured reading at the Worcester Poets’ Asylum. This, however, is not unusual for a man who has been performing his poetry across the United States for over 30 years.

Brown is a three-time Pushcart nominee, has been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Worcester Review, World Literature Today, and 100 Poets Against the War, was named “The Poet Laureate Of The Blogosphere” by voters at thebloggingpoet.com for 2008 and hosts the popular GotPoetry Live reading series in Providence.

Tony became a published poet at the tender age of 9, but it wasn’t until the mid 70s that he dove into performing his work. “I’d given one featured reading of my work in 1977 for a local theatre group in my hometown,” Brown said, “but doing poems in front of local punk bands in Worcester in the late 70s and early 80s got me into a more dramatic style, and then finding the Poets’ Asylum and the national slam scene really gave me a home among like-minded writers and performers.”

Tony went on to become a member of several National Poetry Slam teams & continues to perform on a regular basis. This, according to Brown, is an essential part of his writing process. “I pay a lot of attention to sound in my work, and performing a poem for the first time is part of the editing process now.” Brown says that he never considers a poem finished “…until I’ve read it in public a few times, to get the sound and rhythm right.”

He also performs as half of Duende with musician Steve “Faro” Lanning-Cafaro. Brown says that it was a meeting of the minds. “We formed it because we met, hit it off, and enjoyed collaborating. Working with the rhythm of a poem to find the best musical setting for it, or writing a poem to match a piece Faro’s written, are good practices for both of us; he stretches me, and vice versa.” The duo has released two CDs and has begun work on a third.

Maturing, says Brown, has changed how he writes. “I think I’m more economical in terms of any one poem; I don’t write the overblown, heavy on the wordplay stuff I did in my earlier years. And in terms of content, I’m far more likely to play with ambiguity and ‘gray areas’ than I once was. I’m less certain of things, and more willing to accept contradictions and irrationality as part of life. So I don’t think my poems tie up loose ends as often anymore.”

The celebration of his 50th birthday has, if anything, rejuvenated Tony. Besides working on the Duende CD, he is also preparing his first serious manuscript for consideration by publishers and is continuing to write every day. “I’m always writing,” says Brown. “I can’t picture a time when I’ll ever stop writing.”

For more information on Tony Brown and Duende, go to radioactiveart.wordpress.com.

Photo by Stephanie Bottitta

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