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Book Review: 'The News,' By Tess Taylor

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The mortgage process, changes at the White House. We also got new job numbers today. It's all so poetic. Is that the right word? For PBS correspondent Jeffrey Brown, the answer is yes. He's published his first book of poems, called "The News." Tess Taylor has our review.

TESS TAYLOR, BYLINE: (Reading) It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.

That's William Carlos Williams, famously pitting daily news against something else - poetry. Williams wonders about the places news and poetry do and don't overlap, and he asks us to imagine the purposes each form serves. These questions live anew in Jeffrey Brown's haunting collection, in which the poet, like the journalist, bears witness. But unlike the journalist, he also exists, wonders and ponders beyond the scripted and sanctioned record of daily events. One poem makes a rhyming song cycle out of, if it bleeds, it leads. Another poem describes news as clarity, cliche, polished package that wraps the unwrappable. Here it is, your day.

But if these poems gently mock the news, they can't dismiss it. Instead, they exist to bear witness to the fact that, just outside the performance of news-iness are the human watcher and the un-recordable complexity of human life. Embodying this witness, Brown revels in flux and duality, tragedy plus a girl eating ice cream, or bombed hotels, but also the sound of the oud, the light in the park, nervous fathers watching for falls.

SHAPIRO: Lines from Jeffrey Brown's debut collection of poems, called "The News." Tess Taylor had our review. Her second collection, "Works And Days," will be published next year. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We incorrectly identify the title of Tess Taylor's forthcoming book. That collection is called "Work And Days."] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.