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Lee Ann Brown reads from Other Archer

I went over to Chelsea the other day to finally capture the irrepressible Lee Ann Brown. She and her husband Tony Torn live at Torn Page, a townhouse near 9th Avenue, the home of Tony’s parents, Rip Torn and Geraldine Page. Lee Ann and Tony have carried on the salon tradition of Tony’s parents hosting performances and poetry readings in what was formerly the living room where I now sat waiting for Lee Ann, my camera on its tripod ready to start recording. The sun was shining through the windows, a sunny day on 22nd Street, and the room was stuffy and hot, closed up because Lee Ann and Tony are about to move to England for a year, to Cambridge where Lee Ann’s going to teach. The room was spare, most everything put away, chairs stacked. If I didn’t capture Lee Ann today, it was going to be awhile before I had the chance again.

I waited. “Is she nervous about reading?” I thought, but when Lee Ann appeared I could see she had simply been getting reading for her performance, in the middle of all the packing, gave me a kiss, then turned on the air conditioner. “We will have to turn it off to record,” I told her. “Well, let’s cool you off a bit,” she said happily ready for anything, ready to go. It’s hard to believe, but I’ve known Lee Ann for thirty years now, from the time she arrived in New York, and began to work at Saint Marks—We say the Poetry Project nowadays, but it was the Church back then. A southern girl from Charlotte, raised on Protestant hymns, she naturally took to the church, coordinated readings there, and since then, has published many poets through her press, Tender Buttons, has had six books of poems published herself, and taught at Brown too.

Finally, the room cool, Lee Ann closed the curtains, light illuminating the edges, sat in her mother-in-law’s favorite chair, and read poems from her latest book, Other Archer, published by the University Press of Rouen and Le Havre in France, which documents her pregnancy and the birth of her first and only child, a teenager now. Lee Ann was easy to capture—we did it all in one take. She is a writer who writes wherever she is, at your apartment, at a party, at a poetry reading, she will stop and jot things down in the street, and her reading is a testament to that, an immediate present, the past with us, now. Like the air we breathe, which nobody notices, whether it’s her optimism that comes from her energy or her energy that comes from her optimism, Lee Ann Brown remains one of the important sources (and forces) of poetry in New York.

You can check out her press, Tender Buttons, here:


I have typed out four poems that Lee Ann doesn’t read. I like all the poems and simply opened to a page and started typing because each fits perfectly. Enjoy.


I stayed in Sylvia and Ted’s room
At Yaddo—two single beds
Side by side
One nearer the the 50s bathroom
I slept in both
to make sure I slept in hers
The adjoining study was Ted’s
while Sylvia’s low ceilinged and hot
was no one’s upstairs.

The Barbie Polaroid was all I had
to document I did this
So here are the frames in words
Strangely apropos

When I crossed the Atlantic at 18
I counted on my fingers the months
Between Sylvia’s suicide
and my birth
and deduced I must have received
the part of her
that needed to live a happy life


after Cocteau

Beast is lapping the milk
it turns me on

I am showing him rose of my heart
I am showing him rose of my cunt

Every nightChaque soir

he has the flat face of a lion
ready to lion his food

Beast when you lap your milk like an animal
I know I am living
behind the wall of roses and thorns
safe from Father and from the Prince

When you’re like that
Fresh from the kill
Don’t run from me


Sheaves of wheat in cement relief
Supply the beauties of Archer Ave.

Past the scaffolded brick church spire
We turn on the vacant corner lot

Through winds worthy of Hopkins (Gerard M.)
New words—Alexus—Everything must go

“Include everything in poetry”
Even the things you think re nothing

Like the way the new white snowflake
Decoration waves its wild tentacles
against the high blue sky

loop and angle
Black grffiti palimpsests the
yellow official sign of Danger
in bus stairwell

She stares at me unsmiing
with cold North face
Notices me writing but says nothing
with her eye

The corner lot I used to chart or cheat in its “vacancies”
Configures new blown trash and walk through paths
Subjected to random search

Has grown a mouth of gravel
Constructed in a cone
Surrounded by temporary fence
Of blue nailed board

Now on Roti Avenue
Cutlery and Wang Quai

Amalgam of chairs
Jammaica Island Center


2 beams of light towers

The Ferry

Pregnant I steered across

No that was after

Baby boom after the towers fell

The shock that it all might be over

Do it now or not at all

Everyone make love to their Bereft and go

How many children died that day

What were children doing in the WTC

Rip Torn and Geraldine Page

All of Lee Ann Brown’s books can be found here:


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