I don’t claim to understand all of Sommer Browning’s poetry, but I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading her first full-length collection, Either Way I’m Celebrating. Her work is smart and requires some effort to interpret; the eccentric, stream of consciousness writing subtly shifts from thought to thought and challenges readers to follow. And it’s certainly worth the undertaking. Browning’s poetry is flat out funny. For example, in the poem “Sideshow” she writes:
We only shelled out a buck,
knew The Snake Man
was a sham and Electra,
someone’s mother. We were promised
The Smallest Woman in the World,
but expected some specimen in a jar.
Instead, The Smallest Woman in the World
asked for money to buy a wheelchair, said
she was from Trinidad.
We’d never heard of it.
Her voice is delightfully unique (especially in my favorite poem “Vale Tudo” in which she describes the absurdity of the Walt Whitman Mall on Long Island), if not a little odd, and Browning creates vivid images that linger in readers’ minds. For example, in her poem “To the Housesitter,” she writes:
marks it. The new light bulb burns out a month from
now. And naturally, it cools in its socket until someone
can’t see to find the flour. Cold when the cooking stops,
when the television blackens, when the woman sleeps,
her body releasing by degrees. The stomach and heart
fatten out, each blood cell walks her body.
This collection of poems also includes a number of Browning’s strange comics—breasts being drawn towards a telephone as if by magnetic force, a finger sticking out of an olive—which are largely scatological or sexual in nature. I found myself cracking up at the randomness of them more than the funniness, but they made me chuckle all the same. So if you think a penis riding a bicycle is funny (and it is kind of funny; it’s okay to admit it), look no further. Browning’s collection of poems and comics is sharp-witted, poignant, goofy, and certainly well worth reading.