KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Poem: 107 words [R]
Commentary: 130 words [R]
Editor’s Note: 256 words

A Sunday Morning After a Saturday Night

by LoVerne Brown
She’s so happy, this girl, 
she’s sending out sparks like a brush fire, 
so lit with life 
her eyes could beam airplanes through fog, 
so warm with his loving 
we could blacken our toast 
on her forehead. 

The phone rings 
and she whispers to it 
“I love you.”
The cord uncoils 
and leaps to tell him 
she said it, 
the receiver melts in her hand 
as if done by Dali, 
the whole room crackles 

and we at the breakfast table 
but at safe distance 
having learned by living 
that love so without insulation 
can immolate more than the toast.

— From LoVerne Brown’s first collection of poems, The View from the End of the Pier (Gorilla Press, San Diego, 1983); reprinted by permissions from the publisher and the poet’s estate

Commentary by LoVerne Brown [circa 1988]

My early childhood was spent in Southwestern Alaska; after time in Upper Michigan and Berkeley I returned to the Territory to be a news reporter on a daily paper in Juneau. Still later, my husband and I edited our own paper in Seldovia. For the past more than 30 years I have lived in San Diego. I feel the only reason for writing poetry is to convey to someone else the emotion which evoked it and I never feel a poem is complete until someone other than myself has read it. Would I then write if I were marooned on the proverbial desert island? Yes—because I am a complete optimist and would want to be ready when a man- or woman-Friday turned up as my first truly captive audience.

— From poet’s bio in The Maverick Poets: An Anthology, edited by Steve Kowit (Gorilla Press, 1988); reprinted by publisher’s permission

Editor’s Note by Clare MacQueen

The enamored teen on the telephone in the poem above is Kerry, grand-daughter of LoVerne Brown and middle daughter of Jonnie Brown Wilson, the poet’s daughter.

This poem is a personal favorite of mine, and I have carried the last two lines in my head and heart for nearly thirty years. Circumstance never allowed me the pleasure of meeting LoVerne Brown personally, and now I wish I had at least sent a card years ago to thank her for writing “Sunday Morning.”

In a telephone conversation with me in September, LoVerne Brown’s daughter Jonnie emphasized the humility and generosity that suffused her mother’s personality. Though Ms. Brown believed that a poem was incomplete until someone else had read it, she herself did not pursue public recognition.

Prior to her retirement in 1974, her poems had primarily been published in literary journals and she was not well known to the general public. Her work became available to a wider audience when writer friends gathered her poems and published them in book form as gifts to her. Three different friends arranged to publish the three chapbooks of her poetry which exist.

Plans are underway to release a single volume of LoVerne Brown’s works. Her friends, fans, and family are now gathering poems from all three chapbooks, as well as others that appeared in many small venues, plus a few that are as yet unpublished.

At KYSO Flash, we are honored that Jonnie Brown Wilson has kindly granted us permission to present three of those unpublished poems.

LoVerne Brown
Issue 1, Fall 2014

(9 July 1912–25 November 2000) *

A central figure in the San Diego poetry world for more than 20 years, LoVerne Brown was a beloved mentor to many and a socially engaged “maverick poet.” As Steve Kowit describes them in his book, The Maverick Poets: An Anthology (Gorilla Press, 1988), such poets are “happily disinclined to run with the herd.”

Ms. Brown was born in North Dakota and spent her early childhood in sparsely populated Alaska. After returning as an adult, she worked as a reporter in Juneau. She and her husband George Brown also published a weekly newspaper there, The Westward Alaskan, and her experiences as a reporter and publisher later led her to conclude:

“Journalism is often factual but not always honest; poetry is not necessarily factual but should always be honest.”

She began writing poetry in her teens and was published quite a bit in her younger years (Bay Area newspapers, a California poetry anthology, and numerous poetry journals). During the early years of her marriage, she ghost-wrote two books, No Life for a Lady and Consultation Room, both of which won national awards.

She also wrote a few humorous poems about her three children when they were young, which appeared in popular magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post (publishing five of her poems between 1945 and 1961) and Family Circle (see “More on the Web” below for the link). Yet her primary motivation for writing during those early years was not for self aggrandizement, but to generate a little extra income for the family.

The Browns moved from Alaska to California in 1937 and lived in various parts of the state until moving to Reno, Nevada in 1949. The federal government transferred George to San Diego in 1950, and the family settled in the Ocean Beach neighborhood, where Ms. Brown spent the remaining 50 years of her life. She worked for the City of San Diego from 1952 (the year her husband passed away) until she retired in 1974.

Though she never stopped writing, working full-time for twenty years left her little time for this form of expression. Not until after her retirement did she begin participating in poetry workshops and writing regularly again. She also taught creative writing classes for the VA, the Ocean Beach Community School, and Fresno Junior College. Ever active in the community, she supported various social justice causes, especially those to benefit the homeless and victims of abuse.

Ms. Brown founded the Ocean Beach Poetry Circle in 1976, which for years published an annual anthology, Zip Code 92107. Her first book of poetry, The View from the End of the Pier (Gorilla Press, 1983), was published by Steve Kowit and friends from the Ocean Beach Poetry Circle as a gift for her 71st birthday. Her second book, Gathering Wine Grapes at the Hollywood Hilton (La Querencia Press, 1986), was also published by poet friends.

She was selected in 1988 as one of several San Diego poets to read their work on television in conjunction with a 13-part PBS series called Voices and Visions. In 1995, three of her poems appeared in Steve Kowit’s book, In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop (Tilbury House, 1995). In 1997, she won first place in the poetry division at the Third Annual San Diego Book Awards for her third book, The Under Side of Snow (Tecolote Publications, 1996; owned and operated by O. B. friend and writer Carol Bowers).

In 1999, at the age of 87, LoVerne Brown received the LOLA Award (Local Author Lifetime Achievement), an annual award given by the San Diego Public Library to a local author for his or her body of work.

The Ocean Beach Historical Society, of which she had been a founding member, hosted a gathering on 19 July 2012 to commemorate a week early what would have been LoVerne Brown’s 100th birthday. A few of her favorite foods were served—rootbeer floats, cashews, cake, and cupcakes—along with poems and much humor in celebration.

* Bio Compiled from These Sources:

1. Email messages (June 2014), telephone meeting (first of September 2014), and email of 28 September between Jonnie Brown Wilson, daughter of LoVerne Brown, and Clare MacQueen, publisher of KYSO Flash

2. Award Winners: LOLA Award in San Diego Public Library Resource Guide

3. Remembering LoVerne Brown: O. B. Poet, Activist, Beloved Friend by Ocean Beach Historical Society (26 June 2012)

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Poems by LoVerne Brown, a blogsite which contains 14 poems from her first collection, The View from the End of the Pier (Gorilla Press, 1983)

Two additional poems, “Even You, Dutch Jensen” (posted 27 August 2012) and “Of Mistakes and Consequences” (posted 17 July 2012), are from later chapbooks.

Goldilocks, charming poem with illustrations by Gyo Fujikawa in Family Circle (July 1962)

[Note from Clare: Cover price on my original copy of the magazine is 10 cents!]

Disinclined to Run with the Herd: The Maverick Poets and the Neo-Avant-Garde Apocalypse by Abigail L. Bowers in Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses (Canary Journal of English Studies, Number 52, 2006; pp 69-79)

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