Garment for a Long Journey celebrates the body of work of California poet LoVerne Brown (1912-2000), whose writing career spanned the late 1920s to the late 1990s. Poems from three earlier collections of her poetry are included in this volume, along with additional loose poems, some never before published.
Among the themes of the over 200 poems in Garment for a Long Journey are nature, human relationships, politics, social justice issues (especially the homeless, the poor, and the powerless), diversity, humor, and poetry itself. Brown’s poems possess an energy; they are powerful and engaging and each carries a clear message. If you like the soulfulness of Mary Oliver and Edna St. Vincent Millay and the wit of Dorothy Parker, you’ll enjoy reading LoVerne Brown. One critic has described her work as “a reflection of life’s meaning and our place in it.”
She was intuitive and observant and understood the complexities of relationships and the things all humans need to grow and thrive. The need for love? Brown described it simply in her four-line poem Sustenance:
Over and around us move Those nutrients we group as love And each of us with separate sieve Must scoop these plankton in to live.
Brown first won acclaim for her poetry while a teenager at the University of California, Berkeley. As a student there in the 1930s, she began a lifelong association with a writing group known as the Bay Area Poets. She won so many awards in the group’s annual writing competition that the rules had to be changed to limit the number of entries per person. In 1932, the anthology California Poets included five poems written by Brown, who at 19 was the youngest poet to be represented in this collection. By 1935, she was working as a newspaper reporter in Juneau, Alaska, where she had lived as a child and where she met and married a fellow reporter George Brown. After the couple relocated to California in 1937, she ghost wrote two books—No Life for a Lady, and Consultation Room—both of which won national awards, and during the 1940s, she sold poems about her children to popular magazines, such as the Saturday Evening Post.
Brown was widowed in 1952, two years after moving to San Diego, and being a single parent of three and working a full-time job limited her writing time. But following her retirement in 1974, she was back in action teaching a poetry workshop, which evolved into the Ocean Beach Poetry Circle. It was this group, and Steve Kowit, who published her first book of poetry, The View from the End of the Pier, as a 71st birthday gift.
During the last two decades of her life, Brown participated in dozens of local poetry readings, and in 1998, was selected as one of several local poets to read their work on television in conjunction with a 13-part PBS series called Voices and Visions. Her final recognition for her writing came in 1999, when, at the age of 87, Brown received the San Diego Public Library’s Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor given for an author’s body of work.
By the time of her death in San Diego in 2000, Brown was a local treasure. Friends had published three collections of her poems, articles had been written about her, she’d done numerous poetry readings, and she’d won many awards. Yet, outside of Southern California, she was not widely known. There was a reason for that…
As her friend and fellow poet Steve Kowit once noted: “LoVerne was a superb craftsperson, a poet of genuine power who should have had national recognition. But she was humble and self-effacing and never promoted herself or her work….”
Hopefully, this collection will change all that. We invite you to take a journey through the pages of this book and get to know LoVerne Brown. She’s too good to be forgotten.
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