Fanny Says What? Southern Culture from Nickole Brown

Earlier this year, Southern poet Nickole Brown published Fanny Says, an anthology that has been called “an unleashed love song to her grandmother,” who has left behind a presence as large as the living person. The early sections of the book speak with the voice of Fanny, a grandmother who was larger than life. Some of the poems in the final section speak with the voice of the granddaughter left behind, trying to co-exist with the Fanny’s ghost.

It’s a beautiful anthology. The emotions are sometimes raw. The language is often more than raw. If you are offended by vulgar language, this is not an anthology for you. In fact, if you are offended by vulgar language, this is not a blog post for you. Consider this your f-word warning. Stop reading now.

The first poem of Part I is titled “Fuck.” It’s a very funny rendition of all the artful ways Fanny used the word.  It was “the f-word made so fat and slow it was basset hound.” And in Fanny’s mouth, “fucker” became “a curse word made into a term of endearment.” Anyone who has loved someone like Fanny will love this poem.

Some of the later poems, the ones that offer up Nickole Brown struggling with the absence and presence of her dead grandmother, are touching without a drop of the saccharine. Her language is like a straight razor that cuts to the bone. One of the poems near the end of the book, titled “To My Grandm0ther’s Ghost, Flying with Me on a Plane,” wrestles with the paradox of not knowing how Fanny would respond to the fact that her granddaughter is a lesbian, not knowing whether love, after all, would be enough. The poem ends with a series of questions that include “Will you/ come get me, your hair piled high and white, when/ it’s my time to go? . . . ./ Or ashamed,/ will you turn away your face and hold up/ a shard/ of that mirror,/ showing me/ I’m going to hell?”

I love everything about this anthology. The language, the emotion, the wry sense of humor. I love reading some of the prose poems at high speed, being bombarded by voices and images that make it a thrill ride. Mary Ann and I heard Brown read from the book at the Arkansas Literary Festival last spring and bought it afterwards. I’m pretty sure, after reading it through, that I’ll read more of her work.

Published by Gary Guinn

Retired English professor. Dog lover. Craft beer lover. Occasional writer.

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