Selena's Reviews > The Scented Fox

The Scented Fox by Laynie Browne
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Feb 12, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: poetry, 2009
Read in February, 2009

I had just finished The Scented Fox when I found out that Laynie Browne was going to be reading in Seattle. There are few things I enjoy more than going to book readings to hear the author read their work and to meet them afterward. Laynie Browne looked small and beautiful but commanded attention. She read from both Daily Sonnets and The Scented Fox.

Laynie has a very distinct writing style that is influenced by flora and fauna and being in the present. Her work brings into it the past by linking it to the present. When she was speaking she told us that she doesn't view time traditionally - for her, time isn't linear but kind of jumps all over the place. The one thing that firmly stands however, is that all you have is the present because the past is done and you may not live to see the future.

As far as "categories" go, she is definitely an experimental writer. She takes her work to a new level of innovation and pushes herself as a writer to imagine something new from something old. Her work is fragmented. It reminds me of pieces I've read by Lyn Hejinian. Specifically of a piece called My Life. This is only an excerpt:

You spill the sugar when you lift the spoon. My father had filled an old apothecary jar with what he called "sea glass," bits of old bottles rounded and textured by the sea, so abundant on beaches. There is no solitude. It buries itself in veracity. It is as if one splashed in the water lost by one's tears. My mother had climbed into the garbage can in order to stamp down the accumulated trash, but the can was knocked off balance, and when she fell she broke her arm. She could only give a little shrug. The family had little money but plenty of food. At the circus only the elephants were greater than anything I could have imagined. The egg of Columbus, landscape and grammar. She wanted one where the playground was dirt, with grass, shaded by a tree, from which would hang a rubber tire as a swing, and when she found it she sent me. These creatures are compound and nothing they do should surprise us. I don't mind, or I won't mind, where the verb "to care" might multiply.


What I enjoy most about Laynie's work is that it allows for loose interpretation. Her pieces have a clear topic but they aren't trying to lead you to a certain end-point in interpretation. Like her views on time - her pieces are also meant to be timeless.

Daily Sonnet is a book of poetry but is unconventionally done. Laynie spoke of finally realizing in graduate school that her pieces of poetry didn't have to be disconnected. She plays around with this concept in Daily Sonnets by picking up where she left off in a poem with a separate piece. I haven't had the pleasure of reading Daily Sonnets yet, but after hearing her read her Love Sonnet to Light, I was instantly enamored with her words.

Love Sonnet to Light
Here are the questions
I did not ask
And why I did not ask them
Do you read my thoughts
Continually as a practice
Or more spasmodically
As the line begins to waver
Do you speak to clarify
My aspiration
If I look down at the page
Will I remain unseen
Yet magically present like the seeker
Who is certain you speak to him privately
As I speak to you

The Scented Fox is her book of prose poetry, though it is much more complicated than that. In accordance with her trend of fragmentation, the book itself is segmented into parts. The Scented Fox has no table of contents but there are three distinct sections. The first is the section of prose poetry. The second is her "Tales in Miniature." The third is her "Festoon Dictionary."

The prose poetry is strongly focused on fairy tales, urban myths, folk-tales and received literature. She makes the pieces ambiguous as to which specific fairy-tale or folk-tale they're meant to address. More often then not, there are many tales mentioned within one piece. As I was reading, I felt a strange sense of familiarity, as though I had stumbled across these concepts and ideas before without ever being able to pinpoint it. Her tales in miniature section is an incredibly interesting concept. She writes a fairytale in three words. Many fairy-tales have common overlapping details and themes. The Tales in Miniature plays off of this idea by providing you with only three words from which you're supposed to imagine a story. It felt like a game that you could play with someone who was young. Tell them three words and have them figure out the story around them. The festoon dictionary was gorgeous. It redefined words with puzzling definitions, but nonetheless quirky ones. It amused me to no end to find words that had their own definition that were used to define something else and to see what that created. Her first section of prose poetry, however, stands on its own. You do not need the Festoon Dictionary or the Tales in Miniature in order to understand and enjoy her tales. Ultimately, Browne has given the reader a second chance at imagination.

It is important to also mention that The Scented Fox won the National Poetry Series Award.

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10/26/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony Looks great, Selena...thanks for the tip...


Selena If you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think. It really is a worthwhile read.


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