Alan Britt

Alan Britt teaches creative writing, poetry, and composition at Towson University. He is committed to combining creative multi-media, student participation, along with a little fun to enhance the learning environment in his classes. His poetry, flash fiction, essays, and interviews have appeared worldwide in such publications as Agni, Arson, Christian Science Monitor, Clay Palm Review, Confrontation, English Journal, Epoch, Fire (UK), Flint Hills Review, Fox Cry Review, Gradiva (Italy), Kansas Quarterly, Latino Stuff Review, Magyar Naplo (Hungary), Midwest Quarterly, New Letters, New Voices (Trinidad & Tobago), Pacific Review, Pedrada Zurda (Ecuador), Poet's Market, Puerto del Sol, Queen's Quarterly (Canada), Revista Solar (Mexico), Sou'wester, Square Lake, Steaua (Romania), plus the anthologies, Fathers: Poems About Fathers (St. Martin's Press:1998), Weavings 2000: The Maryland Millennial Anthology (Forest Woods Media Productions, Inc.: 2001, St. Mary’s College, MD),  and La Adelfa Amarga: Seis Poetas Norteamericanos de Hoy (Ediciones El Santa Oficio. Peru: 2003.

His recent books are Vermilion (The Bitter Oleander Press: 2006), Infinite Days (The Bitter Oleander Press: 2003), Amnesia Tango (Cedar Hill Publications: 1998), and Bodies of Lightning (Cypress Books: 1995).

Alan received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Tampa and the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. He occasionally publishes the international literary journal, Black Moon, from Reisterstown, Maryland, where he lives with his wife, daughter, two Bouviers des Flandres, and two formerly feral cats.

The imagery in Britt's poems connects itself to an idea and is, therefore, deeper and more meaningful than embellishment or decoration. In this manner, a linguistic experience is born, one that is palpable to the five senses. No accent pieces needed-Britt does more than get close to the bone-he gets to the heart of the thing itself and makes it resonate with something deeper than exactitude. His images are painted as if vibrating, as if his letters were tuning forks. Britt's imagery, therefore, evokes a mood and meaning simultaneously.

--excerpted from Dr. Maura Gage's introduction to Infinite Days

Here's what's being said about
VERMILION

Images are the key to what is serious in life: lying, as such, but the great and only occasion to understand what is truth. I enjoy poets like Alan Britt who know where to look for truth.

--Yves Bonnefoy

Vermilion, the new volume of poetry by Alan Britt, is a concise but very humane piece of poetry. Two moods flood this volume-a mystic mood, and then a contemplative mood. The first one is not canonic, because if one can talk about a mystic feeling, this suggests the construction of each poem as embodying a sort of mantra. Eagles, white pelicans and above all the snow leopard are savior-animals and symbols not only for the sacrifice, but also for the pilgrimage that all of us, as interior monks, must undertake in our lives.

--Ruxandra Cesereanu

(Available books):  Vermilion and Infinite Days from  www.bitteroleander.com/books.html

Review by Paul Sohar from Off the Coast, Vol XIII, No 1, January 2007 (www.offthecoast.com/reviews.html)

Vermilion

Poems by Alan Britt

The Bitter Oleander Press

Finally a volume of poetry I can really get excited about. Not only respect and admire at a distance or learn from, but simply enjoy without effort or reservation. And by this I don’t mean to say these poems lack sophistication, quite the contrary, they revel in the unexpected in lush landscapes of exotic images, but images that require not deciphering; they force themselves on the reader’s consciousness. It takes me more effort to wade through the simple-minded little prosaic vignettes and so-called slices of life that pass for poetry in many literary forums, because halfway through I become mired in the inertia of boredom and it takes me a great effort to overcome that paralytic state of mind. True poetry is truly exciting to find, it’s not a riddle to be solved, not a cutesy little story to churn the stomach, and there’s no effort involved. The excitement generated by a great poem electrifies the mind, alerting it to the message the poet wants to convey in addition to the dozens of other possible avenues the poem opens up on its own. A great poem thus gives us a lot more than just truth; it lets us feel we’re in possession of truth, it awakens the sensation of truth, it lets the mind leap over the mechanics of everyday living, above its role as the mere watchdog of survival, the servant of so-called hard reality, and into the magic world we always suspected existed beyond the surface we can see and touch, into a world where poets, painters and musicians can guide us.

I don’t know if Alan Britt thinks of himself as an imagist poet, but I am bedazzled by the imagery that graces every stanza of his and even vibrates in every stanza break. Yet his poems are not just galleries of static images, but each poem is a stage for a dramatic interplay of images, each one of which is a miniature drama in itself and contributes to the dramatic tension that propels each poem to completion. Never to a punch line, of course, Britt is above that, not even to a conclusion but a dissolution of the picture even while lyrical intensity keeps echoing through the mind.

           

            …when you lean forward,

            you’d swear

            a new bark, yelp or howl

            barely vibrates these Debussy clouds

            of twilight.

 

And so ends one of the longer poems, “Listening to Dogs”. We don’t learn much about dogs, but we do get ushered into the poet’s mind and can’t help catching the mood that possesses it.

The above quote illustrates two more things about Britt’s poetry; sights and sounds are interchangeable, they smoothly flow from one into the other, giving the metaphors an added dimension. And the other is the broad and deep cultural background that he brings to his poems.  Although most of these poems either take their imagery from nature or describe –no; create – a scene in nature, mostly in the poet’s own backyard and carefully tended vegetable garden, the larger world is never too far, and neither are the trappings of civilization such as music, art, history and the geography of imagination. And let me not forget the tribute he pays to other poets who had nourished his inventiveness; the various sections of the book are couched in quotations from Baudelaire, Isabel Fraire (born in Mexico City, 1934) and even John Lennon, in addition to Anne Sexton’s picture. But I find it easiest to tune in with his allusions to music, especially Mahler whose emotionally-laden post-Romantic symphonies and other orchestral song cycles, such as the Song of the Earth (there is a poem by the same title in the volume, undoubtedly a poetic response to Mahler’s Das Lied von die Erde), all inspired by the sounds and colors of nature, are so much in harmony with Alan Britt’s world. They complement each other, like the various other associations the poet makes contemplating nature. For example, there is the owl in the poem “Myth of the Baker’s Daughter”:

           

            They say the owl

            used to be a baker’s daughter

            with wild hyacinth hair.

 

And then the poem plunges into the myth, or the suggestion of a myth, slowly warming up to its complication and expanding on its universal implications before coming back to a real owl, a scene from nature, that inspired the whole thing in the first place. This poem is one of my favorites, because it demonstrates so well the poet’s ability to put imagery to dramatic use, to keep things moving instead of just decorating the page; the poem smoothly slips into the myth and takes off into fantasy on a rainbow-like arch to come back to reality, the reality of the owl in the backyard, which has been magically opened up in the meantime to reveal a rich world of myth lying beneath the surface. Momentum is perhaps the most essential aspect of lyric poetry, and Alan Britt’s poems never lack it; from the first word to the last the lines carry the mind along as easily as a breeze carries a bird across a valley, as easily as red wine can fill a glass.  Effort? It takes about as much effort to read and appreciate these poems as it does to walk across a newly discovered clearing in the woods in springtime. That is not to say the drama and pain of life is glossed over or ignored, but by dramatizing the meaning behind it all through vivid images the poet is able to achieve resolution and peace of mind.

 

            So, reveal

            your desperate shoulders,

            smooth shadows

            of ice melting,

            as good as any lover

            devoured

            by panic existence.

 

The back cover shows the poet is a relaxed pose, with a wine glass in hand but with an alert look in the eyes. The exact image I formed of him reading this book.

 

Paul Sohar

14 Sydenham Rd.

Warren, NJ 07059

 

 

BRIEF ENCOUNTER

 When I was 17, her eyes resembled champagne scorpions,

ones living inside clapboard walls,

deadly stings for such small creatures.

 

Her lips resembled some sort of melon, orange or green,

I can’t remember now, but they released elixir

similar to the pomegranate feathers shading the agate eyes

above Vermeer’s girl in a red hat.

 

Her hips had teeth.

 

I’d have shifted gears,

but I was on automatic,

silver Chevy, of the ’57 variety,

4-barrel, marginal AC, the works.

 

Anyway, her neck had scarlet fever,

what with all its drops of sweat.

 

And since I’d never had scarlet fever

before, I was cooked.

 

Now, at 58, I say that too much attention is paid

to the gravitational pull of rogue suns, black holes, lavish moons,

and not nearly enough to necks.