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Kurt Brown: Fisherman

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.

From I’ve Come This Far to Say Hello: Poems Selected and New (Tiger Bark Press). Copyright 2014 by the estate of Kurt Brown. Included in Vox Populi by permission of Laure-Anne Bosselaar-Brown.


Kurt Brown (1944-2013) was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1944 and grew up on Long Island and in Connecticut. Brown was a highly regarded poet, editor, and literary activist. He 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, 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 I’ve Come This Far to Say Hello: Poems Selected and New (Tiger Bark Press). 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.

9 comments on “Kurt Brown: Fisherman

  1. John Balaban
    April 13, 2023

    Sweet poem. I miss Kurt and his good presence in our poetry world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Noel
      April 13, 2023

      “Sweet poem?” Hardly. It’s a most powerful and moving poem, one of Kurt Brown’s finest – but not sweet! Kurt is certainly a felt absence in our world.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa Zimmerman
    April 12, 2023

    How he could be light and deep at the same time❤️💔


  3. allisonfine
    April 12, 2023

    Love this. He died too soon–just shy of 70. Wish he were here now, would love to read his poetic take on present times. His work resonates with depth and sensitivity.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Vox Populi
    April 12, 2023

    Kurt Brown is an important poet who never received the attention he deserved. This poem shows his subtle music and profound insight.


  5. Jason Irwin
    April 12, 2023

    wonderful poem!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Noelle Canin
    April 12, 2023

    One of my favorite Kurt Brown poems, it never ceases to touch, to illuminate.

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on April 12, 2023 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry and tagged , , , .

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