Mahogany L. Browne’s evocative book-length poem explores the impacts of the prison system on both the incarcerated and the loved ones left behind.
I Remember Death by Its Proximity to What I Love is an expansive poetic meditation on who we think is bound by incarceration. The answer: all of us. Weaving personal narrative, case studies, and inventive form, Browne invokes the grief, pain, and resilience in the violent wake of the prison system. This poem is dirge work but allows us to revel in the intricacies of our human condition. Written by a beloved and prolific writer, organizer, and educator, this work serves as a practice of self-reflection and accountability. Browne steps into the lineage of Sonia Sanchez’s Does Your House Have Lions? with the precision of a master wordsmith and the empathy of an attentive storyteller.
“I have never read a book quite like, I Remember Death By Its Proximity to What I Love, which explores a daughter’s longing for her father who is often a persistent and haunting spirit. There are endless pathways to read this searingly intelligent collection, full of magical footnotes, journalistic asides, and love notes to readers as it measures abiding love against societal threat, as it weighs personal loss against national gain. I praise Mahogany L. Browne who is a fire starter, a conjurer of essential prayer, and torchbearer who lights the way to justice. Her words are flame, igniting love and its essential truth. This book is an act of supreme invention that wills itself to survive through powerful insistence.”
— Tina Chang, Brooklyn Poet Laureate, author of Hybrida
“Because we work so hard to deny our vulnerability—to those we love, to those who love us, and to those whom we know mean us harm—we often find ourselves on edge, hoping no one will see that we’re afraid, that we’re breakable. In this intimate, book-length poetic journey, Mahogany L. Browne carefully examines vulnerability in herself, in her family, and by extension, the fragility of all Black Americans who find themselves living in a nation that often does not love us. It is the raw honesty with which Ms. Browne dissects this painful position that breaks the spell and offers a way out of the psychosis induced by a country that remains unwilling to take on its own history. This book is not an elaborate complaint; it is a crack in the wall of despair.”
—Tim Seibles, Virginia Poet Laureate, author of Hurdy Gurdy
“Mahogany L. Browne is the geometer and keeper of our sacred realities; Thelonious Monk casually playing a crossroad blues. In this collection of poems, she raises even the heirlooms of the dead; every molecule of a path home. A leap into revolution. Telling our whole lives. Here on paper are the mannerisms of a hurricane; like looking at a poem and seeing that your big sister is God.”
—Tongo Eisen-Martin, San Francisco Poet Laureate, author of Heaven is All Goodbyes
“In I Remember Death By Its Proximity to What I Love, Mahogany L. Browne entwines the carceral economy, planetary shifts, border abuses, the pandemic and more through a diversity of syntax and visual cues. Throughout, Browne reflects on and responds to a deeply conflicted time in which all that’s consistent is inconsistency, underscoring how much we need poems like these, and poets like her.”
—Mandana Chaffa, Chicago Review of Books
“Mahogany L. Browne’s I Remember Death by Its Proximity to What I Love reads as a single, continuous poem (though it is divided into parts) that explores the inheritance of grief, the violence of racism and incarceration, and the transportive potential of writing. I read this book as a kind of deconstructed ars poetica, in which the poet, particularly in times of strife or overwhelming intensity, finds a poem ‘waiting to be picked up / dusted off.’”
—Megan Fernandes, Harriet Books