If you go to the Amazon.com site to purchase Stacey Lynn Brown’s first book of poetry, you may not notice a slight difference between the title printed on the book cover and the title as it’s listed on the Amazon page. What may at first glance seem a subtle difference I think speaks to a larger issue in the contemporary American poetic landscape.
Amazon lists Brown’s book as—Cradle Song: Poems. The site then goes into the usual price and shipping info. However, it’s easy enough for the eye to simply glance to the left (where a reproduction of the book cover is) and see that the book has a slightly different title than listed. Check it out for yourself:
http://www.amazon.com/Cradle-Song-Stacey-Lynn-Brown/dp/0981501052
Cradle Song a poem Stacey Lynn Brown
So, the book is a poem. It is not a collection of poems.
I haven’t done any investigative journalism to uncover the reasons for this, but I’d like to use this to consider an idea I’ve been pushing for years: I think poets should feel free to steal back from fiction that which was previously within the domain of poetry.
Larger structures. Character development. Subplots and dialogue. Since the days when people gathered around the camp fires of old and recited poems, these elements have been a part of poetry. I’m not advocating incorporating these elements/possibilities simply because they were used in the old days. (I don’t want my doctor, for example, blood-letting the bad humors out of my body simply because that’s how they did it way back when…) But if a poem arrives with dialogue and subplots and book-lengthed structure—then that’s how it arrives.
Cradle Song is Brown’s first book. It’s an important point to recognize. Getting a publisher to back an emerging poet on so ambitious a project is no easy task—but it can be done. (I think publishers are becoming more and more open the idea.) Pick up Cradle Song and see for yourself.

Originally Published: April 30th, 2010

Brian Turner earned an MFA from the University of Oregon and lived abroad in South Korea for a year before serving for seven years in the U.S. Army. He was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999-2000 with the 10th Mountain Division. Then in November 2003 he was an infantry team leader...