A face to meet the faces
A Face to Meet the FacesBuy this book a University of Akron Press

A Face to Meet the Faces

Persona has a wide-ranging and far-reaching role in the literary tradition. Early in its history, poetry operated as an oral chronicle of important cultural and historical events, a way of both “knowing” and “remembering,” of handing down stories to future generations. The storyteller’s point of view was of witness or scribe, and poems were very rarely written in the first-person narrative.
Utilizing personae as both poetic alter ego and as a foil to their own narrative perspectives, modern poets retold the story. T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” from which this anthology takes its title, is an excellent example of persona as alter ego, allowing the poet to voice the unspeakable and think the unthinkable without direct ownership, consequence, or reproach. In this way, the idea of “hiding behind a mask” can be utterly revealing and liberating.
The poems in this anthology represent the intersection of tradition and possibility. The poets range in age and accolade and draw their inspiration from sources that are as disparate as the ways in which information is disseminated in our multimedia world. From ancient mythology to popular culture, from fairy tales to tabloids, the voices in these poems address a wide range of issues that are historical, contemporary, and ultimately timeless.

Cradle Song is a book-length poem in sections that grapples with issues of race, family, and cultural identity against the backdrop of the poet’s childhood in the South.
Read an excerpt from Cradle Song.

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Blurbs for Cradle Song

At the center of Stacey Lynn Brown’s collection of poetry Cradle Song is Gaither, a hard-working, blade-wielding, quick-tempered, sometimes reckless black woman who served as the speaker’s nanny. The complicated inheritances of race relations, Southern identity, white superiority, and unheralded bonds between black and white folk are explored in this brutally candid sequence of poems that unflinchingly elevates and portraits Gaither’s humanity, pain and struggle into the realm of folklore. One can only admire such honesty and realize such struggles of consciousness represent the blues idiom that is 21st century America finding shape in elegant language that advances momentous understandings of our complex history.

–Major Jackson

Here’s a cycle of poems that feels perfectly timed for our current American moment, as conversations and memories grow more interesting again and we imagine rising up into a better shared story. These are poems that wrap right around you, carrying a reader into a richly textured world of voices and scenes, gritty and cozy memories pressed up side-by-side, in delicious readable resonance. Stacey Lynn Brown has a real feel for rhythm and narrative, her gait is eloquently tuned. No flab, no digression. Take this book and travel.

–Naomi Shihab Nye

Stacey Lynn Brown knows that great emotional complexity requires simplicity, and she knows, too, when to get the tropes out of the way of the main story. She writes sparely and lucidly of privilege, sacrifice, and guilt; of what a mother is, and what a muse is. With Cradle Song she has accomplished a book-length narrative poem that seems to me one of our most compelling documents on race, family, and cultural identity.

–Rodney Jones


“Part of Cradle Song’s considerable power lies in its resistance to cliché. Turning a curious, hard and compassionate gaze upon the past, the book keeps faith with the complicated legacy of the poet’s Southern roots…Casting the book as a long poem in sections allows Brown to move among these interrupting and dialoguing voices nimbly, lending Cradle Song a feeling of great fluency. Such fluency can be hard won, but even as she deals with the messy realities of adult knowledge, love and grief, Brown’s poetry is accessible and pared down. Brown doesn’t make hard facts look easy but, in her hands, poetry is a giving art.”

–Jenny Mueller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch