21 April 2008

Toni Brown (November 2, 1952 – April 19, 2008)

Toni Brown Memorials

Friday, April 25, 2008
Trinity Episcopal Church
3 Goddard Avenue
Rockland, Massachusetts

Sunday, April 27, 2008
Painted Bride Art Center
230 Vine St, Philadelphia, PA
2 - 4 pm

Condolences may be sent:
In Memory of Toni Brown
c/o Ian Yancey
161 West Abbottsford Avenue
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19144

Another day, another loss...what a shock to lose a gentle and hilarious sister-poet. We always had a great time together, and hers was one of the warm and welcoming presences I'll always remember that greeted me in Esopus New York my first year at the Cave Canem retreat. I'm still working on a poem that riffs off one of hers that she read the last time I saw her a couple of years ago. I'm sorry I won't be able to surprise her with the gift of it.

The news from Cave Canem:

Dear Poets,
I am sorry to write that Toni Brown (1997, 1998 and 2002) passed away on Saturday, April 19 from respiratory complications.

There will be two memorial services in: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Rockland, Massachusetts. If any friends of Toni would like to read a poem in one of the services, contact Toni’s sister, Gina Brown, at browngmd@gmail.com (please put CAVE CANEM in the subject line). There will be more information on the services at a later date.

Dante Micheaux

Two poems including an audiorecording with percussionist Barbara McPherson

Toni in Prairie Schooner

Her more steamy work can also be found in Bed: New Lesbian Erotica (Haworth Press, 2007)

The woman w/maggots in her legs
dozes in an over-stuffed chair
Flies orbit her head, blacken the walls,
make love to the soft holes in her body.

She whispers to the pipers who call her Granny,
bring her potato chips or warm ginger ale then
curl into the room's dark corners.
Their match flames reflect in her dull eyes
Sulfur mixes with the smell of garbage.

The women w/maggots in her legs
never changes her clothes.
Her socks writhe against her ankles
Her shoes appear to be full of rice.

She dreams of sheets boiled white,
sunshine through clear window panes.
The tickling in her body is the touch of God,
the buzzing, the wings of angels.


these ropes of hair
This is how
it would have grown
on my head
in the bowels of a ship
long ago

we dark still living
who crawled or
were dragged
hair matted flat
into this New World
would have been

from Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade (University of Michigan Press, 2006)

from Postcards from Cave Canem

Naked against the moon’s fingers
rolling on the floor in the sheets
licking the sweat off my upper lip the cool rain
off the window sill Twisting my hair into knots
eating only sunshine and the songs of birds
Who heard my cries through the heavy oak door
while 15 poems had their way with me?

won’t be home this week
will call soon
Love, Toni

Love to you as well, Dear Toni!


ScryptKeeper said...

Thanks for this Reggie. So wonderful and sweet. I was devastated to hear this news this morning and have been trying to metabolize it all day. Toni graduated my first year at CC and what I remember is someone very sweet and super powerful. What a loss. Thank you for sharing your own words, as well as hers.

Tayari Jones said...

Reggie, I can't help but notice how many sister/brother writers we have mourned. YOUNG people. Is this just a part of our black lives? Our short black lives?

amusejanetmason.com said...

A memorial for Toni Brown will be held this Sunday, April 27th, from 2 to 4 at the Painted Bride Art Center. People are invited to bring memories, photos and light refreshments to share.

For more info, contact

You can read several poems from Toni on my website: www.amusejanetmason.com

Anonymous said...

I met her in the summer of 1994, and fell immediately and hopelessly in love with her. We had a life together....our home, Thanksgivings and Christmas, the "day-to-day"...she helped shape my daughter, a beautiful 21 year old writer and poet, herself......it was far too brief, but still I thought we'd grow old and resolve/dissolve our list of regrets. Now, my heart aches like nothing I ever expected to feel. I loved her, and she loved me....this I know. She was my only soul-mate.......what to do now, Toni, my Toni....where to go with my love for you......how to resolve my grief, my regrets.......

Anonymous said...

I got to meet Toni a couple of months ago here at Montco and was immediately drawn to the calm, warm energy. I found myself looking for her in the mornings while I was studying, and while I didn't say a word, I knew that she reminded me of another soul I knew. Goodbye, Toni Brown. It was really nice to have met you.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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