Dan Brown’s poems are splendid demonstrations of the power to be obtained by drawing the reins really tight. They’ve a kind of detachment and crisp dryness extremely rare nowadays, when most poets, it seems, simply step before their mirrors and gush away. Yet in keeping faith with such strict forms, Brown hasn’t squeezed out the breath and feeling; his poems are quite beautiful things. Dan Brown’s Matter sounds a new note in poetry. The urban music in this first collection is as unprecedented as the rural music of Robert Frost was in its time. Brown is in fact a successor to Frost in playing a New Yorker’s voice, as the earlier poet played a New Englander’s, across the back-beat of meter and rhyme.

Brown’s work is as notable for its content as its style. The subjects in Matter are uncommonly particular and strong. They’re also exceptionally diverse. From aesthetics to jury duty, from undersea life to computer sales, the book stakes out a broad expanse of thematic territory. Yet for all its variety, Matter is more than a miscellany. In its progression of poems, the collection traces one man’s deliverance, courtesy of life, love, and time, from a youthful brooding on mortality.

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If, as many have said, American poetry has lost the audience it deserves, perhaps poems like Dan Brown’s–poems at once accessible and profound, poems which reconceive the oldest virtues of the art in terms as new as the times–can help forge a reconnection. In infusing poetic form with the music of common speech, Brown’s work continues the tradition of Robinson and Frost, Hardy and Larkin…. If you like such poetry, you’ll find much to enjoy in Matter.

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