Bill Brown
February 2003


Bill Brown grew up in West Tennessee ten miles from the Mississippi River. He is author of four collections of poetry, Holding On By Letting Go, What The Night Told Me, The Art of Dying, and The Gods of Little Pleasures, and a writing text, Important Words, on which he collaborated with Malcolm Glass. He holds Masters degrees from Bread Loaf School of English and from George Peabody College. Since 1983 he has been director of the writing program at Hume-Fogg Academic High School in Nashville. In 1995 the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts named him Distinguished Teacher in the Arts. He has been a Scholar in Poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, a Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a two-time recipient of fellowships in poetry from the Tennessee Arts Commission. He and his wife Suzanne live in the hills of Robertson County, Tennessee, with their cat, Soliloquy.

Poetry Statement:

When I was a boy throwing a paper route in a small West Tennessee town, I chanted nonsense poems to the morning air. As a child I met each new experience with an eager sense of wonder. Writing poetry reminds me that I have not lost the capacity to be amazed at the world.

My grandmother was the storyteller of the family. When I think of her, I remember the little cabin on the west bluff of the Tennessee River. On nights too hot to sleep, she would weave winter tales cold enough to make me shiver. Although I have experimented with many forms, I am basically a narrative poet because of her. She instilled in me the importance of keeping our legends, myths, and traditions alive.

In poems I like to place characters in pivotal moments, when change is inevitable. I'm less interested in coming to a kind of knowing as I am in exploring how experience feels. Sometimes when I'm lucky, the two come together.

The complexities of place and time fascinate me. I am part of the houses that I've lived in. I am part of the landscapes of Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Idaho. I go to these houses and landscapes in my dreams, while sitting at my desk. Their hovering presences inform my writing.

I have little interest in organized religion, but in my 50's, I am more conscious of the fleeting nature of things. I can't solve the great mysteries but writing poetry helps me render how they taste. Ultimately, for me, writing poetry is a way of honoring a kind of humanness, what it means to live and die on the planet, this gift.

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