Michael R Brown

The Man Who Makes Amusement Rides won Best Poetry Book of 2004 at the Cambridge Poetry Awards, held Sunday, March 7, 2004. Brown had two of the four books in the final four.

"The Handyman at Tanglewood" from his also-nominated book, Susquehanna won best narrative poem.

The Man Who Makes Amusement Rides

by Michael R. Brown
Newtown, CT: Hanover Press, 2003

Ordering Information

This book is available from the author at mrbrown64@msn.com or 207-454-8026,
or by mail:

Michael Brown
PO Box 14
Robbinston, ME 04671

Or from the publisher:

Hanover Press
55 Forest Lane
Wolcott, CT 06716


Provocative. He (Brown) selects words that, by themselves, pack punch and meaning. He juxtaposes them alongside others in a coupling here and there that, at first glance, seems odd; however, the pairing creates an image, a moment that works and pops. It is good and right and so provocative.

Compelling. He has one voice. Rich and velvety. Lulling with a lovely rhythm. And that's without sound, just words. He has one voice but not one style. He's a gifted storyteller that glides gracefully from confessional, narrative pieces to leaping poetry. Straight from his heart to your dreams.

Intriguing. You read the poetry once to just read. Twice to savor the figurative language. You lay the metaphors, similes, hyperboles aside and read a third time to roll the meaning underneath the language around in your mind.

He is Michael R. Brown. Poet. Teacher. Host to the Boston Poetry Slam at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge. Two other books of his poetry precede The Man Who Makes Amusement Rides. This current collection is broken up into three parts: "The Man Who Makes Amusement Rides," "Shutouts," and "Picasso's Housekeeper." Once you read this assemblage of poetry you may wonder what road the minstrel has taken to produce these experiences, this mastery and love of the language.

And you should read it. Let it compel and intrigue you.

—Elizabeth Borges, Ibbetson Street Press

I finished The Man Who Makes Amusement Rides. I know it seems like I've had it for a while, but I didn't whip through it like it was a mystery novel. If I started a poem and my mind was stuck on the previous one, I put the book down. Did some thinking, read something else, did a little living, a little writing. And picked it up fresh. I think good writers do that. They slow us down. They make us stop and consider, struggle a little, and make the wait, the time, worth it. I think maybe that's when you know it's literature.

From almost the beginning, I was held by the courage of the poet's voice. It's a kind of grace under pressure. I remember stopping to admire that. I thought, if the poet was only half as brave as his voice, he deserves the respect I give him.

You say it twenty-five poems in in "The Next Bed."

We can't dictate circumstance,
say what advantage will be.
select what we lose.
But how we feel about it
is something we can choose.

It's a good definition of courage. That's so important to these poems. To a lot of your poems. That idea, that voice, can be reassuring but also intimidating, but you like that about them too.

I know I can go on about individual poems and lines that stick with me, but I won't. I don't have that kind of confidence - just know I'll go back to them when I need them. I know the man who builds the rides that frighten me will also keep me safe.

—David R. Surette

wanted to say something about "The White Album" operating in a peculiar way, taking that out-and-out belly laugh of a first line and swiftly analyzing it in such a way that we are left with that belly-up flounder of a last line-- not only a dead, but a killed thing, not the bitterness of some well-aged liquor, no fish filet but something we must take out with the trash, and I wonder if this methodical contempt makes me think more than I did when I laughed.

—Michael McDonough


The Man Who Makes Amusement Rides

Before you were born,
this spidery web formed in my mind.
On this cat's cradle I set your slide from up there
to accelerate through a curve down here
and rock back when force falters.
I add energy when your scream eases,
build anticipation beyond where you'd stop.

It's a rock and roll record etched above the skyline--
no dead air, tempo without rest,
short stop with your body's rush ahead.
You get to ride after this contraption fits
my nervous eagerness, meets my specs.
I scaffold anxiety, terror on tracery,
peak experiences at the bottoms of slides,
your guts talking about a separate way home.

The air is always clean above my road.
By the time you're scared,
nothing can go wrong.
I'm a playground terrorist tamed by profit,
turning free fall into fun for money,
dropping kids from heights beyond reach,
funneling pleasure by focusing fear
and spreading stress across concrete pads.
When you have my nightmares,
I'm on the beach.

The Next Bed

Peel away layers of living,
complex behaviors broken down,
repressed lids lifted,
security wraps unwound
until we get to a crib
with hospital corners tucked tight.

A pair of eyes on a smooth cool sheet
stare through bars. She stands on one foot.
For balance, one hand clutches a curtain
against her face, thumb in her mouth.
Cold as it gets, she doesn't cover up.
Ashamed to stand on my feet,
my reach rebukes her one arm.

Kids call "Mommy, Daddy" when adults
come on the orphanage ground.
While potential parents murmur among crib rows,
she stares them down and I lie flat.
Tough nuns hold me up, pull out my thumb.
Fair and complete, I try to foreshadow years
of deformed character in sad baby eyes,
but someone will take me soon.
She stands on one foot 18 hours a day,
lies down only when everyone sleeps.
I never saw her fall or pull herself up.
No one ever gave her a hand.
I don't know what became of her.

Odd how these things go.
Secure nests support flight.
Build badly, suffer storm damage or injury,
and all our effort goes to holding our ground.
We can't dictate circumstance,
say what advantage will be,
select what we will lose.
But how we feel about it
is something we can choose.

The White Album

Every separation comes down to
who gets the white album
because it makes a statement on the shelf,
but neither of us will buy a replacement
just for that.
Its jokes aren't funny.
Its cuteness has an edge,
like drugs beyond pot and LSD,
like a relationship that has lost its softness.
Even its name is something else.
Its sound effects fill gaps
the music doesn't cover,
a warning to the next lover
who reaches for a song:
don't expect warmth
when you touch this heart.

Panic, Lighting

On the train ride home, I squeezed between two filled seats,
pretended the passengers knew each other,
elbows and thighs touching.

     —Valerie Lawson, after a reading by Billy Collins

It is possible to be murdered in the street,
in the viaduct under a noisy bridge,
riding in a subway car.
For non-needle-using heterosexuals
AIDS is less likely than lightning,
but we know it happens,
as surely as the knife
flashing in train light fluorescence
freezes us in a moment of panic,
the dropped book already soaking red.

We die more times in our imagination,
more in our dreams than in life,
nameless terrors reach out of the night,
brilliant flashes rend us to vapor,
or the quiet depth of an abyss invites us
politely beyond the edge of a narrow path.

I think of these things when I catch
the sweet smell behind your ear,
that unmistakable whiff of death
no perfume can mask if we
let our lovers nuzzle us, let
the passengers know we are afraid.

Then wild twilight shines
in blue oblivion on the river,
apartment windows stare with molten eyes,
train wheels keep time, the murmurs of passengers
sing the urban chorus of a discordant symphony,
and I feel the turning of a page
ripple through the paper, stars blinking,
cloth against cloth,
from the end of the train
the voice of a poet, warning,
the click of the blade in unnatural light.