Brown unLike Me, by Emmanuel Ortiz

By , November 11, 2012

When I first saw this poetry “chapbook,” I felt a faint glimmer of recognition at the author’s name, which clicked into place when I found the poem, “A Moment of Silence,” at the end of the book.

“A Moment of Silence” is one of those poems that draws a sharp reaction from nearly everyone who reads it. brownunlikemeSome are outraged that it compares the tragedy of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 to other events; others find the comparison insightful and inspirational. It’s hard to imagine anyone reading the poem without actually thinking about it; that’s great praise for any writer.

Each of the eight poems in Brown unLike Me is powerful in its own way.

“These Hands” uses vivid images to convey a legacy and the author’s sense of responsibility to communicate: “Within these hands / Lie the stories of other hands / And the ability to tell them; / To bring past into present. / The privilege to forget, / Therefore the responsibility to remember.” After I finished the book, I returned to re-read “These Hands” again, reflecting and thinking.

I wanted to link to the book at Amazon.com, but to my surprise, the book isn’t available there, and I also found that the publisher’s web site is defunct. Brown unLike Me,  published in 2008, already seems to be an orphan book. (I bought it at a library book sale.)

Fortunately, you can experience most of the poems through YouTube videos of the author’s readings:

“Poem for Toni Smith” is a anthem to dissent. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNF4MN3bDa8

“Brown unLike Me” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDfv_d_wtfU

“There is an Island.”

“The Day Marvin Gaye Died,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L90WJx6BH2o

“I Remember the Children,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJQGmz5FbSQ

“A Moment of Silence”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmanuel_Ortiz

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