Brown's 'Flying Through a Hole in the Storm' documents internal and external strife

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Andrew Rosenthal, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.
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Mar. 21—TRAVERSE CITY — Fleda Brown once, quite literally, flew through a hole in a storm.

She was on her way to Missouri, the pilot said there were storms all around, but saw a hole and would "try" and fly through it.

Brown, the Traverse City poet now in her 10th book, recalls in her latest collection of poetry her experience that day with the woman sitting next to her.

"The plane shudders and shakes and lurches," Brown writes. "Outside, lightning, exposed, then buried by clouds. The lady next to you has a dying sister and takeoff was long delayed, and you don't ask if it might be too late."

Thus, "Flying Through a Hole in the Storm," will make its way onto a bookstore shelf near you in March of 2021.

The book's title comes from the aforementioned poem documenting Brown's flight through a hole in a thunderstorm, a moment Brown said it seemed perfect to describe a book written in the mix of a pandemic and a family member's diagnosis with cancer.

"The title seemed to work for me because it felt like that's exactly how things have been in so many ways," Brown said. "We've just been holding our breath, hoping to make it through the storm."

But Brown said she didn't necessarily know the fit of the book's title when she chose it — trying to escape a storm with as little damage as possible when there's been much damage.

That's because there aren't any poems about the COVID-19 pandemic itself included in the book.

The crux is a pair of prose poems that document Brown's experience through her step sister's cancer diagnosis, a culmination of writer's block and intermittent family stresses.

While experiencing writer's block, Brown reached out to a fellow poet with a potential solution.

"I can't write anything, so what I'm going to do is I'm going to commit to you to put something down every day and send it to you," Brown said. "It may not be any good, and I don't care, this is just to give myself some kind of accountability that I'll write something every day."

The two prose poems that came as of a result of the two writers' correspondence, which are longer than anything else in the book, Brown says is not common to her style of writing.

She was pleased with how they came out.

"Probably part of it was just stress," Brown said. "I sort of tightened up and tightened down and just did some really good work."

The rest of "Flying Through a Hole in the Storm" includes a collection of shorter poems. The first poem is about moths eating holes in clothes, the last is about a weeping Alaskan cedar tree.

"Treaties" circles around the grief following the death of Brown's father, and "Twenty Letters In Spring" discusses the discovery of her step sister's cancer and what might be done to treat it. The two prose poems, Brown says, are dense and tend to move over the place.

Brown says you can certainly tell the effects of trouble in her poetry, but the book is not a "total downer."

"I think they remain cheerful in the face of trouble," Brown said. "It's not a book you that pick up and and afterwards you wish you never read it because it made you worse down than you were before."

The book can be pre-ordered from the Ohio University Press with a 20 percent discount on its website.

Follow Andrew Rosenthal on Twitter @ByAndrewR