Michelle Chan Brown

Introduction to DB 18: Poetry

Turgid overview of the lovely, fragile, spine-snapping, political, furious, elliptical, rich poems in the issue?


In lieu, these scavenged lines serve as the DB18’s teaser. As ever, I’m humbled by the range of poems I’m privileged to read as editor, and in love with the perennial conversation and confusion about what justifies a poem.

Welcome to Nicholas Wong, our new Assistant Editor, and thanks to Andrea Henchey for her excellent work curating previous issues. And thanks, most of all, to you, readers, the most important part of Drunken Boat.

Michelle Chan Brown
Poetry Editor
December 2013



What kind of emperor are you? Industry,
guide. Suffixes: -y, -uality, -ist, -ism;
Look at the coins they minted: zero
your sights          zero your odometer
before you enter, untimely, haunt and waltz
and taunt. Altogether, we were crude
but not dead, the lush press onward of lives
wanting nice things. It’s a grim business.
The blood always rushing to their heads,
never being able to pick up anything they drop.
scant histories run through psalms whispered,
the lip readers talking to the hair-raisers
This is the fish, this is what he looks like.

It stared, it gorged, hidden in plain view
pinned under glass display case, superior, lethal, 
lions, coyotes, a jugular vein prey to canines.
Can a poem behave like a painkiller?
The town was filled with itchy commas.
Your tickets will soon be in the mail
Make up new moves. We wrestle and cry.
The culture we designed bends tonight.

All the ants care about is winter catching up to them.
They work in octaves, interchanging keys;
gold a good color for the glitter of your back
& forth when there was business to be done.
In Washington, human feet imagine a ledge,
then the stampede, the country like a kingdom;
the sun, half-thought to be extinct to his American
family, let the surf guilt him a little longer
to be unemployable at the yellow counter,
sheeted on the readied operating table,
bound for knocking against what is maybe
like the dawn we could see and the nightfall
we couldn’t dream. The dream called dirty 
laundry does more being subject than implement. 

Michelle Chan Brown

<em>Edit Poetry</em> Michelle Chan Brown

Michelle Chan Brown’s Double Agent was the winner of the 2012 Kore First Book Award, judged by Bhanu Kapil. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Linebreak, The Missouri Review, Quarterly West, Sycamore Review, Witness and others.

Michelle received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she was a Rackham Fellow. A Kundiman fellow, Michelle has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Vermont Studio Center and the Wesleyan Writers’ Conference. Her chapbook, The Clever Decoys, is available from LATR Editions. She lives with her husband, the musician Paul Erik Lipp, in Washington DC, where she teaches, writes, and edits Drunken Boat and co-curates the Cafe Muse series. Find her online at www.michellechanbrown.com.