Interview with Daniel Brown

The below is an excerpt of Andy Kuhn’s interview of Daniel Brown. Full interview text is available in the book How a Poem Can Happen, or upon special request.


Andy Kuhn: You’ve studied music seriously and lectured on it at the college level. Some of your poems vividly evoke aspects of the experience of listening to music. This is from “What More?”

I couldn’t have been as old as eight when my
Response to music had broadened out enough
To accommodate, along with all the love,
A thought that could be taken to imply

Some criticism: that music certainly
Did plenty of repeating, didn’t it. . . .

Why shouldn’t notes be streaming ever on
To shapes and traceries forever new:
A state late Debussy was drifting to,
A dream an avant-garde was bent upon . . . .

Of course one asking this would be forgiven
If his voice were short a certain urgency,
His having been conveyed repeatedly
By music to the cumulus of heaven.

From What More? pp. 35-36. Orchises Press, 2015

Could you say a little about if, or in what ways, your knowledge of and appreciation for music have informed your involvement with poetry?

Daniel Brown: It may seem odd, what with all the talk about the “music” of poetry, but I don’t see either my reading or writing of poems as having much to do with music. Maybe that’s because I’ve spent enough time with each of these arts to have a marked sense of their dissimilarities. Poetic rhythm seems very different to me from musical rhythm: a comedian’s timing is closer to it than a composer’s. (Though a Victor Borge can combine the two.) As for the other main “musical” aspect of poetry—euphony (as embodied in assonance, alliteration, rhyme)…what Yeats called the articulation of sweet sounds together—I can’t think of a real cognate for it in music. If music has influenced my poetry, it’s been by showing that an artwork can at least seem “perfect:” not a note wasted, every element contributing to the effect….