Meet Our July Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight: Melanie Braverman

spotlightMassachusetts Poet in the Spotlight is a monthly installment from Mass Poetry. Each month we shine the spotlight on a poet affiliated with, and nominated by, one of our poetry partners.


MelanieBravermanMelanie Braverman is the author of the novel East Justice (Permanent Press, 1996) and the poetry collection Red (Perugia Press, 2002), winner of the Publishers Triangle Audre Lorde Poetry Award. A recipient of grants in both poetry and fiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, her work has appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Poetry, American Poetry Review, and can be seen most recently on Cape Cod’s mass transit buses in collaboration with painter James Broussard, curated by Broadsided Press.

Poetic Profession “Ecstasy, generosity, rigor: these are my high water marks. On the page, in the studio, at home, in the classroom, in the community, if I manage to hold myself to these three standards I’m satisfied.”       -Melanie Braverman.

Excerpt from Matrimorphosis

There was a time I was so bleak I began to doubt the constancy of the world. If not by history or experience, by what authority would I then believe? I sat with Buddhists, psychologists, artists, and they were comfort to me though purely for their willingness to sit. That heaven might continue my fear and not quell it kept me from wanting to die, for I understood that this fear was a condition of my eternal soul and therefore would accompany me no matter where I might go. What was I to do then but breathe? I counted breaths until I could sleep, and again when I woke in the dark, a horse spooked at its gate. I walked and breathed, ran and breathed, drove and breathed. Breath was my companion whose face I sought in a crowd, an airplane, the market at dusk. Is it the fate of the dependable to be forgotten? For after a time all that breathing made me calm again, and I forgot.

–Does the world love us?
–The way it loves a tree or a snake.

I knew from the striations of sky that there was snow on Long Point but the wind was blowing the weather away from us for a change, allowing the sun to break through. Suddenly three flares arced across the bay, perpendicular and perfect, smoke trails crazed by the wind. But there were no boats on the water to be seen, nor any signs of distress from the town visible from the shore as I walked. The flares disappeared so fast I began to imagine they hadn’t been there at all, when just as quickly three more passed across the sky, and what was the world trying to tell me as I walked, what was I supposed to be looking out for? Ice shore to shore as far as the eye could see, treacherous, disguising the tide line so I could not know where the water was. It was as if I was wandering in a house again, this one vast with enormous rooms full of elaborate beds and huge tiled bathrooms. I was new to the house but I lived there, perched on a rocky promontory above the ocean in which throngs of sea animals tossed in the waves: seals, dolphins, killer whales. An image of riches, but I couldn’t tell if they were mine or not. I’d been reading about a contaminated river, how everything in it washed up dead one day. Polluted with cyanide by a gold mine, the stretch of foul water was seventeen miles long. Why didn’t the chemicals keep moving? Where would they eventually go? Think of mud in a river bottom oozing cool between your toes in summer, the sun heating your hair while your feet are cold, the bodily collision of confusion and gratitude as you stand there blinking into the dark trees along the bank. The poison from that water entered us whether we were downstream or not. Someone I knew once used to leave the room by saying, “See you on the river, the river of dreams.” As if we would all meet there.

perugia logoPerugia Press publishes the best new women poets in the country. Our mission is to find poets whose writing is welcoming to new readers and interesting to longtime readers. Every year, we fulfill our mission by publishing the winner of our annual, national manuscript contest. Please see our website for details.