Phil Brown was born in Surrey in 1987. He graduated from the University of Warwick in 2008 and now works as a secondary school English teacher in London. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Crashaw Prize and won an Eric Gregory Award in 2010. He has had his work published in Magma, Pomegranate, Dove Release: New Flights and Voices (Worple Press, ed. David Morley), Dr. Rhian Williams’ The Poetry Toolkit (Continuum, 2009), The Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt Publishing, ed. Roddy Lumsden) and the forthcoming Lung Jazz: The Oxfam book of Younger British Poets (ed. Todd Swift) and Coin Opera 2 (Sidekick Books, ed. Jon Stone). He is the Poetry Editor for the online magazine and chapbook publisher, Silkworms Ink.
“Phil Brown’s Il Avilit moves forcefully between the noise and disorder of the modern world, picking through the debris of the many lives we lead, leaving a trail of perfectly poised and fiercely observed poems. Dejected teachers, low-life pub landlords, faithless lovers, libertines and heroes populate this piercing and quick-witted debut, where darkness and regret linger at the corner of the pages, reminding us that an urgent clock ticks with our every step.
Whilst the poems go toe-to-toe with the big subjects of lust, loss and deception, the collection remains savvy, upfront and entertaining. Brown’s poems seek to confide in their reader with precise and carefully-measured words in their ear, finding their form and shape in persistent and surprising ways.”
“Ink spilled from a dark wingtip overhead … with pitiless skill this shade of Baudelaire unmakes his life and lays it out for our delectation – a casual gift, a rarefied vision, a human sacrifice.”
– Hugo Williams
“Phil Brown’s poems jump across the page, play with language and meaning, and interrogate – thumb in collar – our multifarious, simultaneous worlds. From Sir Gawain on the Northern Line to the sleazebag publican – from Chiron in Southend to an American president on his deathbed – these poems blend urban, virtual, and mythical experience through a sharply observant eye, fizzing like intellectual fireworks as they go.”
– Katy Evans-Bush
A Minor Offence
It wasn’t theft as such that night,
we tried to pay, had a train to catch.
No jobs were lost over the matter
I’m sure, just two coffees
and a slice of pie.
Worse crimes are committed
every second. Three murders
at least during the time it
took to read this poem.
Still, as I skim through
the underground, I offer
my seat to an elderly
or disabled woman
and hope that God was watching.
Averos Compono Animos
The soggy floor sags under us
as though walking on a gloved hand
over a patchwork of spread newspapers stained sepia
dustily detailing what the Russians were up to.
The cast safety of our torchlight
projects Venn diagrams in which to step.
Embarrassed to be eighteen and afraid, I am coaxed
into trying on a jacket hanging solo in a balsa closet.
Smell of dust and piss as it grips
my shoulders like an angry parent.
Screams held in stone tape
teased out by kicked cans and footfall,
our fingers trace the braille
of sodden wood and soft walls.
We last an hour in all
before returning to our torn corner of fence.
A silent ride home, rifling through our loot:
three syringes, a nurse’s coat baring a Latin motto,
a duty rota dated ’82 and a small pile
of clumsy polaroids:
the cold chamber, the smashed window, the pew
barnacled with moss
and me in a too-small jacket.
Harry Baker, who the alphabet placed
next to me in Physics lessons
in that wooden room festooned with equations.
His masculine sway across class, always late
always proud of his knuckles’ cuts
caught from walls or often hand-dryers.
Harry, with whom I shared little time,
but watched and ridiculed as he flitted
from trend to trend with the years
– a constant reinvention of clothes
hung on his Olympic swimmer’s physique,
his eyebrows sheared to a barcode, then pierced.
Harry whose voice blackened with time,
whose re-imagined ancestry accessorised
with his final angry guise.
You made the papers Harry, made them all,
made him see you weren’t afraid,
and I wonder how it felt going in.
All Harry left of the other boy
is a dwindling shrine of flowers topped up yearly
by a dwindling group of teens in their twenties.
New recruits are broken in on Tuesdays
being the easy shift to be shown the ropes.
During this time, you will be told how to:
give change, push promotions, bag ice
bottle-up, wipe surfaces, pour Guinness,
check ID, work a till, be bought a drink.
You will be informally tested on these criteria:
a) Do you smoke? b) are you a thief?
c) will you let the bouncers touch you?
d) do you smile? e) are you poor?
f) are you funny?
g) will you have sex with the management?
If the other girls have already begun to hate you
then you are pretty enough to work here.
I had none of these qualities
but Adam put in a word.
from Il Avilit (Nine Arches Press, 2011).
Order Il Avilit.
Visit Phil’s website.
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