“Our greatest mistake,” said Guillermo
(he was speaking of Mexico)
“was to greet as a god
a man who came only to conquer.”
Like an ax in the forehead
those words split my third eye open,
spilling out new perceptions
of my own country,
which too has a long sad history
of mistaking pirates for saviors,
though they come quite open in their simple greed,
too arrogant to bother to deceive us.
We, too, Guillermo,
are betrayed by our old mythology;
it is we who fashion their masks
from our feathered dreams,
we who with hands on the potent
lever of the voting booth
over and over
trustfully landslide them in.
—From Garment for a Long Journey: The Collected Poems of LoVerne Browne, edited by Jonnie Wilson (BookLocker, 2020), in which the poem was reprinted in turn from Brown’s 1986 collection, Gathering Wine Grapes in the Hollywood Hilton; appears here with permission from Jonnie Wilson, the poet’s daughter.
(9 July 1912–25 November 2000) *
A central figure in the San Diego poetry world for more than 20 years, LoVerne
Brown was a beloved mentor to many and a socially engaged “maverick poet.”
As Steve Kowit describes them in his book, The Maverick Poets: An Anthology
(Gorilla Press, 1988), such poets are “happily disinclined to run with the
Ms. Brown was born in North Dakota and spent her early childhood in sparsely populated
Alaska. After returning as an adult, she worked as a reporter in Juneau. She and
her husband George Brown also published a weekly newspaper there, The Westward
Alaskan, and her experiences as a reporter and publisher later led her to
“Journalism is often factual but not always honest; poetry is not necessarily
factual but should always be honest.”
She began writing poetry in her teens and was published quite a bit in her younger
years (Bay Area newspapers, a California poetry anthology, and numerous poetry
journals). During the early years of her marriage, she ghost-wrote two books,
No Life for a Lady and Consultation Room, both of which won
She also wrote a few humorous poems about her three children when they were young,
which appeared in popular magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post
(publishing five of her poems between 1945 and 1961) and Family Circle
(see “More on the Web” below for the link). Yet her primary motivation
for writing during those early years was not for self aggrandizement, but to
generate a little extra income for the family.
The Browns moved from Alaska to California in 1937 and lived in various parts of
the state until moving to Reno, Nevada in 1949. The federal government transferred
George to San Diego in 1950, and the family settled in the Ocean Beach neighborhood,
where Ms. Brown spent the remaining 50 years of her life. She worked for the City
of San Diego from 1952 (the year her husband passed away) until she retired in 1974.
Though she never stopped writing, working full-time for twenty years left her little
time for this form of expression. Not until after her retirement did she begin
participating in poetry workshops and writing regularly again. She also taught
creative writing classes for the VA, the Ocean Beach Community School, and Fresno
Junior College. Ever active in the community, she supported various social justice
causes, especially those to benefit the homeless and victims of abuse.
Ms. Brown founded the Ocean Beach Poetry Circle in 1976, which for years published
an annual anthology, Zip Code 92107. Her first book of poetry, The View
from the End of the Pier (Gorilla Press, 1983), was published by Steve Kowit
and friends from the Ocean Beach Poetry Circle as a gift for her 71st birthday.
Her second book, Gathering Wine Grapes at the Hollywood Hilton (La
Querencia Press, 1986), was also published by poet friends.
She was selected in 1988 as one of several San Diego poets to read their work on
television in conjunction with a 13-part PBS series called Voices and Visions.
In 1995, three of her poems appeared in Steve Kowit’s book, In the Palm
of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop (Tilbury House, 1995). In
1997, she won first place in the poetry division at the Third Annual San Diego Book
Awards for her third book, The Under Side of Snow (Tecolote Publications,
1996; owned and operated by O. B. friend and writer Carol Bowers).
In 1999, at the age of 87, LoVerne Brown received the LOLA Award (Local Author
Lifetime Achievement), an annual award given by the San Diego Public Library
to a local author for his or her body of work.
The Ocean Beach Historical Society, of which she had been a founding member, hosted
a gathering on 19 July 2012 to commemorate a week early what would have been LoVerne
Brown’s 100th birthday. A few of her favorite foods were served—rootbeer
floats, cashews, cake, and cupcakes—along with poems and much humor in
Author’s website: https://lovernebrown.com/
Morning After a Saturday Night, poem and commentary in the debut issue of KYSO
Flash (Fall 2014)
Poems (includes “For Edna Millay” ), previously uncollected,
and first published in the debut issue of KYSO Flash (Fall 2014)
Poems by LoVerne Brown,
a blogsite which contains 14 poems from her first collection, The View from the
End of the Pier (Gorilla Press, 1983)
Two additional poems, “Even You, Dutch Jensen” (posted 27 August 2012)
and “Of Mistakes and Consequences” (posted 17 July 2012), are from later
poem with illustrations by Gyo Fujikawa in Family Circle (July 1962)
[Note from Clare: Cover price on my original copy of the magazine is 10 cents!]
Disinclined to Run with the Herd:
The Maverick Poets and the Neo-Avant-Garde Apocalypse by Abigail L. Bowers
in Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses (Canary Journal of English
Studies, Number 52, 2006; pp 69-79)