Little Houses (New Women’s Voices Series, No. 85)
by J. Lorraine Brown
Wen you enter J. Lorraine Brown‘s world, do not expect to dip your toes cautiously into the waves. No, her words will envelop you, carry you to the “lacy edge” of sea and sand where faith and doubt, sin and sorrow, wash over you and all the little houses.
–Nancy Tupper Ling, author of Coming Unfrozen
Little Houses, J. Lorraine Brown‘s latest chapbook, furthers a line of poetry which she has deftly navigated in her previous works. The poems here are filled with observation of the everyday lives and landscapes of particular places that are rendered, sometimes in memory, with vivid and tender detail. But the reader mustn’t relax too soon into easy nostalgia. These poems also characterize with scalpel-like accuracy. The telling features of a room for instance, show us much of the life of the woman who inhabits it: “Her cup of tea grows cold/a coating of milk/floating like a leaf” and “the paperback life of some movie star/face down in the corner.” These are the sort of brush strokes that typify this collection: the small things seen or remembered or imagined that bring the whole assembly to life. Brown spares nothing. Consider the honest priest, trying to console a battered wife: “‘You can’t hide from your vows. Look into your heart.’/He leaned toward her and whispered: ‘I wonder/if you are trying hard enough.'” Chilling and beautiful at the same time, an entire way of thinking and of life rendered in that passage, far more complicated than might first meet the reader’s eye. Little Houses is a good read. J. Lorraine Brown, through her characters, has gestured toward an entire novel in this svelte chapbook.
Rating: ***** [5 of 5 Stars!]