‘Judy Brown’s deliciously tactile Crowd Sensations ... quietly twists concrete subjects from a cricket umpire to a cockroach into unsettling new shapes, a “mutable alphabet”.’ – The Telegraph
Poet Judy Brown’s new collection, Crowd Sensations, is a worthy follow-up to her Forward-prize nominated debut, Loudness. Brown is a poet of dazzling contrasts, of thoughtful paradox, intimate confidences and precise evocations. Her titles and first lines both draw you right into a poem and then quite often surprise you with a narrative that you hadn’t quite expected. ‘The Things She Burned Last Year’ references a past both remote and near, like multiple reflections seen in a mirror. Brown is a poet of profoundly unsettling domesticity as in ‘The Dehumidifier’, which unravels the metaphysics of damp and ‘This is Not a Garden’, which is a cool summation of a failed marriage. We frequently imagine an uncomfortable intimacy: ‘Poem in Which I am Not Short-sighted’, or are given a scary anecdote like: ‘The Post Box in the Wall’. There are serious poems that lure you with humorous titles: ‘Poem in the Voice of a Dead Cockroach’.
A key theme is the contrast between living in the city and the countryside. The author has lived in London and Hong Kong and has recently had residencies with the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere and at the Gladstone Library in North Wales. Her spin on landscape is original and characteristically unnerving: ‘Elterwater Rain’, ‘Dove Cottage Ferns’ and ‘One of the Summer People’ reflect on nature and the place of the traveller, the incomer, the tourist. ‘Green Man’ also imagines a historical/mythical character and has him walk through a busy city street, shunned and unrecognized. Her memories often focus and celebrate pivotal moments of change: the move from city to country, the release from a doomed relationship, and the discovery of a new street or landscape. A fascination with artistic technique also features in a number of poems: ‘After the Discovery of Linear Perspective’, ‘On a Woodblock Prepared for an Engraving’.
Such is the author’s skill that these poems can often be said to be about more than one thing at a time. They unfold themselves upon the page in concise forms and with considerable flair. Judy Brown’s Crowd Sensations will be a joyful discovery for the intelligent reader.