The eighth winner of the New Criterion Poetry Prize is Daniel Brown's Taking the Occasion. From its opening lines, his book sounds a new note in poetry: "The thing about the old one about / The tree in the forest and nobody's around / And how it falls maybe with a sound, / Maybe not . . ." In poem after poem, Mr. Brown plays urban speech rhythms (much as Robert Frost played rural ones) across the back-beat of meter and rhyme. Distinctive in matter as well as in manner, Taking the Occasion addresses subjects that range from a moment's fancy to stirring ruminations on existence. In a time when many poets see subjects as superfluous, Brown demonstrates the abiding power of an arresting premise, much as music derives life from a memorable tune. His work repeatedly sounds emotional or philosophical depths, yet he isn't above eliciting a laugh in the process.
Daniel Brown's poems have appeared in Poetry, Partisan Review, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, The New Criterion, and other journals. Winner of a Pushcart Prize, he has been widely anthologized in volumes such as Poetry 180, edited by Billy Collins, and Fathers, edited by David Ray. He holds a master's degree in musicology from Cornell University and has taught at Cornell and Dartmouth College. His Why Bach?, an appreciation of Bach's music, is available on the Internet. He lives in Baldwin, New York.