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Robert G. Brown's Poetry Page

Things on the site itself that may be of interest to students or philosophers of any age or generation include complete online books of poetry, various support materials for the study of physics, and links related to beowulfery. All materials on this site that are authored by Robert G. Brown are Copyright 2004. The details of their Open Public License (modified) can be viewed here. If you use or enjoy anything at all on this site -- free textbooks, stories, programs, or other resources, consider hitting to help spread the word so others can find it as well. Note, Robert G. Brown is generally either rgb or rgbatduke on many external sites crosslinked here.

My Books:

My Books

Home Top Who Shall Sing, When Man is Gone Hot Tea! Holy Light Contact About


Welcome to my (Robert G. Brown's) poetry collections. I have been writing poetry almost as long as I have been writing at all, and have diligently collected and tuned and edited my poetry over decades. Below are two books of poetry made available for free via the web. There are poems on many subjects -- the nature of God, love, nature, both whimsical and very serious indeed. There is an epic poem about an event (global nuclear war) that has not happened yet, but is even now one possible description of our ending as a species. I grew up with the constant threat of nuclear annihilation and (as a physicist) pretty well understood how it would come about. There are a number of poetic images of Buddha -- I am not exactly a Buddhist, but then, Buddha (any of them) wasn't a Buddhist either.

Feel free to browse the poetry collections below and to bookmark or make personal copies of any that you like. I also welcome comments or feedback -- it is always lovely to hear from a reader that they found my poetry and particularly liked or were moved by (or even disliked) some particular poem. There is a link to my email address immediately below.

Commercial publishers interested in producing an actual book (or other media form) of the poetry below are encouraged to contact the author. As is anyone else in the world, of course (except spammers). I cherish reader feedback.

This site is an active member of a Poetry Webring and a general prose and poetry webring. The former, especially, is devoted to serious poems. If you like any of my poetry, you are reasonably likely to enjoy things from farther up or down these rings (which of course have crossroads to many related rings). Feel free to check them out.

Who Shall Sing, When Man is Gone

Each of the poems in this work has something of a story to it. ``The Passing of the Time of Man'' has more than just a story -- it was a large part of my literary/poetic life for five to ten years. It was written before the iron curtain came (predictably enough) crashing down, and reflects the overwhelming cynicism that affected the whole generation of kids (like me) who were brought up in the shadow of the thermonuclear fusion bomb. Every day of my life from the day that I was born until very, very recently, there was a finite (and not particularly small) chance that some accident of fate or some insane act of malice would create a holocaust that would level civilization.

It used to bother me that if the nuclear winter, nuclear summer, or fallout everywhere theories were actually correct, that nobody would be able to write about what was undoubtedly the most significant event to occur in mankind's short history. If the Trojan War was worth an epic poem, so was this. The only trouble was, it had to be written before the event. So I did.

For what it's worth, the picture on the cover of the book is of the "Apple" nuclear test set off in the Nevada desert on March 29, 1955, a day that just happens to be my birthday. My life began, as you can see, with quite a blast. Hopefully it won't go out that way.

Many of the poems derive from philosophy or physics. Some of my favorites in the former category include "In Defense of a Natural Religion" and the Koans at the end. Relativity theory, in particular, has a beautiful and poetic interpretation in which the world as we know it is like a tapestry of interwoven world lines, solid and stationary in four dimensions, woven by the hand of God on looms unknown. This idea appears in several poems, e.g. -- "The Gods", "Sadness", "Deja Vu".

Some of the poems are very much political. In particular, "The Quiet Killing" was inspired by a National Public Radio news show in which they interviewed a reporter who had personally investigated the Kurdish massacre orchestrated by the Iraqi government. The poem is an essentially accurate description of the events he reported, including the eyewitness testimony of a young boy who escaped by crawling into a nearby ditch.

If I had to pick my own favorite poems, the list would include (in no particular order) "Old Age", "Resurrection", "The Hill" (which I read at my Father's funeral), "Prayer for Mankind", "When Halley's Comet Came Too Soon", "Wisdom" (written for my first son Patrick soon after his birth), "Image" and the two Koans at the end. I also like (of course) much of "The Passing of the Time of Man". However, I "like" something about all of the poems herein, or I would not have included them. It is my hope that some of them may sing to you as they sung to me when I wrote them. If you find yourself, one day in the future, with a tiny snatch of one of these poems flitting through your thoughts like an errant hummingbird, annoying you because you cannot remember where you read it but you really liked it, then I will be most pleased.

Many of these poems have been published, formally or informally, before outside of this website. They were featured on the cruxweb webring and on the site of Samantha A. Wallachy, the (then) cruxweb webmistress, and will be featured on her new site, The Artistic Apex as soon as I have a chance to send her some selections. Others have been republished, with lovely illustrations created by Elizabeth Armstrong, all the way Down Under in Australia.

The lulu printing above is the first time that they have all been available in a nicely bound, printed form, however, and as starving poets need to eat, I certainly hope that you'll consider buying a hard copy if you did in fact like the poems enough to want to share them or read them again.

Feel free to let me know what you think of these poems. You can send me email or mail at the address given in the Contact links on this page. If you like them, and find yourself returning to read them from time to time, feel free to drop a dollar in the metaphorical banjo case in the intro...

Hot Tea!

Hot Tea! has been written mostly after the birth of the first of my children (indeed, Who Shall Sing, When Man is Gone contains a few poems from this period as well). They were also written as my life becomes somewhat more meditative, as my religious views and intrinsic Zen state become clear over time. Quite lot of the philosophical influences that are coming to fruition are expressed in some of the in-progress essays under my philosophy pages at In these I attempt to articulate in simple prose some of the insights that are probably better captured in poetry.

At any rate, a number of the poems in Hot Tea! are generally Buddhist in nature, although I perceive of the Buddha as a philosopher and not as a religous figure and especially not as a god (e.g. incarnation of Vishnu, at least not any more or less so that any of us are that share in our hearts a spark of fire).

This collection also contains some of what I now view as my best poems, ones that I really do think can stand the test of time. Not to toot my own horn, but "An Open Letter to Humankind" and "Planting Season" are really good poems, as are quite a few of the shorter ones.

There are a few irreverent poems as well -- I poke a bit of fun at W. B. Yeats in "Driving to Byzantium", a more-or-less perfect translation of "Sailing to Byzantium" for modern times. I couldn't do this if I didn't love and even revere Yeats -- when my kids were babies I used to put them to sleep by reciting a variety of Yeats and Tennyson (Ulysses) to them from memory. Even now, if I start in with "It little profits an idle king..." I can make my eldest son start to nod;-)

The one final comment to make about this collection is that it is incomplete in that I'm still writing and adding poetry to it, and I'm also still editing and changing the poetry that is there. This is one of the benefits (or perhaps curses) of web publication and work processors. I work on poems for years, fixing a misspelling, altering a line to it scans better, sometimes rewriting whole stanzas. A poem you read today might be a different poem in five years -- perhaps better, perhaps not, but different nevertheless. Only my CVS tree contains the full revision history of my poetry, and even it only stretches back so far.

There is room in Hot Tea! for quite a few more poems before splitting yet again and starting a third book. At my current rate of production, it will likely take a few more years to complete. If you wish, you can bookmark the site and revisit from time to time to see if any new works have been added.

Feel free to let me know what you think of these poems. You can send me email or paper mail at the addresses given in the contact link above. If you like them, and find yourself returning to read them from time to time, feel free to drop a dollar in the metaphorical banjo case in the online introduction, and I'll gladly tip my next glass to your health!

New Poems

New Poems are basically work in progress. For a long time I just added them to Hot Tea!, but it is getting pretty full and my writing is evolving. New Poems is a holding ground where new poems can live and perhaps changes as I reread them and edit them -- poetry isn't really a thing that is necessarily "finished" just because it appears in print.

For that reason I'd cherish feedback from you, dear reader, if any of these poems are particularly good -- or bad. Even if you dislike them, any poet cherishes the knowledge that somebody out there is actually reading and thinking about their work, and some of them I may not be too happy with as well -- your criticisms may inspire me to make some much needed changes. Or not.

Home Top Who Shall Sing, When Man is Gone Hot Tea! Holy Light Contact About

This page is maintained by Robert G. Brown, available at rgb at phy dot duke dot edu. This address is also associated with rgbatduke in e.g. stumbleupon or google code, in case you are looking.