Winner of the 2008 Washington Writers’ Publishing House Poetry Prize
We meet a Mayan cowboy, Archimedes, a diamond smuggler and a nightclubbing saint in this collection of poems bound together by the themes of place and origin. In Provenance, Brandel France de Bravo explores not only her own roots but the roots of words. Taking her cue from Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Every word was once a poem,” she has written 26 poems—one for every letter—inspired by etymologies. By braiding autobiography with the biographies of “Apricot,” “Zygote” and everything in between, the poet tells a story that transports us to places both familiar and far-away.
Sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued, sharply etched and sharply worded,Provenance is a book of alphabets and fables, of narrative precision and verbal passion. Across a host of exotic locales, and through the labyrinth of etymology, Brandel France de Bravo is a poet of restless travel and linguistic inquiry—what luck for the reader who accompanies her on the voyage!
In Provenance, Brandel France de Bravo writes with urgency of continuous displacement, an exile status rendering her exquisitely sensitive to the textures of daily life. She is forever a stranger among those who do not ask “where I’m from, but where I’ve just come from, / which country I left last.” At home in many cultures, at home in none, this gifted poet transforms a search for identity into a voyage through language, and finds her true roots in the alphabet letters that generate experience. This is a remarkable first book, and an important one in our time.
|Brandel France de Bravo’s poetry has appeared in Fugue, The Kenyon Review, Black Warrior Review and The American Voice, as well as in anthologies such as The Beacon Best of 1999, Creative Writing by Men and Women of All Colors; Fathers, A Collection of Poems; Outsiders, Poems About Rebels, Exiles and Renegades; and Hunger and Thirst. A graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers, she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was the recipient of a grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Her first collection of poems, Provenance, was a semifinalist for the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman prize, as well as the 2009 Larry Neal Writers’ Award for poetry. Brandel is also co-author of Trees Make the Best Mobiles: Simple Ways to Raise your Child in a Complex World (St. Martin’s Press).
Visit the author’s website: brandelfrancedebravo.com
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Poems from Provenance
Licking the Woman
I am the harried health
Juanita spoke Spanish,
The man in Damascus
A sarcastic Egyptian always speaks
Cecilia was the first among us to ripen,
Lolita of a peach.
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