ISBN Paper: 978-1-938160-57-8/ $16.00
ISBN E-book: 978-1-938160-58-5 / $9.00
Published by BOA Editions / April 2015
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“Nickole Brown’s unleashed love song to her grandmother is raucous and heart-rending, reflective and slap-yo-damn-knee hilarious, a heady meld of lyrical line and life lesson. Brown is blessed to be blood-linked to such a shrewd and singular soul, and the poet’s mix of monologue, myth, and unbridled mayhem paint a picture of a proper Southern lady who is just—well, unforgettable.”
“In Fanny Says, Nickole Brown distills the whole of America into one woman: bawdy, loving, racist, battered, healed, and gorgeous with determination. Our country has no history that does not touch the South. Our divisions are our unions. Here, Brown unleashes a voice returned to teach us a lesson. Reader, fair warning: you can’t hide from Fanny. You will be changed by this book.”
—Rebecca Gayle Howell
In this “unleashed love song” to her late grandmother, Nickole Brown’s collection brings her sassy, bawdy, tough-as-new-rope grandmother to life. With hair teased to Jesus, mile-long false eyelashes, and a white Cadillac El Dorado decked with atomic-red leather seats, Fanny isn’t your typical granny rocking in a chair. A cross-genre collection that reads like a novel, this book is both a collection of oral history and a lyrical and moving biography that wrestles with the complexities of the South.
Nominated 2017 Poets' Prize
"What makes this book essential to the growing cannon of writers confronting the American heritage is that these poems resist sympathy. Brown resists being the victim of a grandmother who was loved dearly, but who, once you peeled away her sass and humor, was a racist. Instead, Brown offers us a woman cloned from tradition and circumstance, a woman loved. . . . But here Brown is at her best—writing calamity with eloquence, speaking, in the same moment, Fanny’s complications and the poet’s claim on it. This book, like a grandmother’s love, is not always pretty, but it pulls you in and gives you so much truth."
—Parneshia Jones, The Oxford American
“In a voice that is both authentic and colloquial, Brown (Sister) tells the story, without sentimentality or cliché, of her grandmother Fanny. At the heart of these lyric hybrids (epistolaries, monologs, and other poetic celebrations) is language, the language of communication, the language of shared heritage. ‘Fanny Linguistics,’ for example, explains things—the uses of Clorox and Crisco, of swilling Pepsi, and of chugging nerve pills. These are poems of survival—and sometimes advice. ‘Child, you looking like some trash./ Give your grandma that dinge./ I don’t care if you ain’t got a dime./ I told you a hundred and one times—/ soap’s cheap.’ Brown follows Fanny’s story from young bride and mother to her death and beyond. It’s rare to find a book of poems that reads like a well-plotted page-turner, each poem propelling the reader into the next, each poem filled with story and song. This is that book. VERDICT Bawdy and real, this volume will stay with readers long after Fanny has had her final say.”
"Brown's sprawling sophomore collection is a lyrical biography of and tribute to her wise and irreverent southern grandmother. Along with a memorable leson in the use of the word 'flitter,' what'll stick most is this book's unknown 'word for all things left unbroken, a word for breakable yet unbroken things.'"
—Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR Books, A 2015 Poetry Preview
“Now at first glance, Fanny Says may appear to be a collection comprised of four sections and fifty-three poems, but look closer. It is in essence one long poem—138 pages—chambered like a heart and pumping language like blood to every stanza throughout this single, vital organ. Though Brown has written these words down, the oracular qualities of her grandmother, Frances Lee Cox—her distinctive way of speaking, idioms and regionalisms, malapropisms and profanities all—manifests so entirely that the reader is not really reading but listening as this monumental, multi-generational narrative unfolds.”
"Fanny Says delights and dazzles at every turn. In these poems, Brown finds the space and time to explore her own family and the South as an imagined location. In the tradition of great lesbian writers such as Dorothy Allison, Fannie Flagg, June Arnold and Rita Mae Brown, Nickole Brown spins a yarn that is at once fantastical and believable, one that leaves us, as readers, yearning for more. . . . Ultimately, one of the most striking aspects of Fanny Says is how deftly Brown presents binaries as paradoxes: Southern femininity with Southern masculinity, Southern hospitality with Southern cruelty, Southern politeness with Southern plain speech. In the end, I was as charmed by these poems as I was provoked, and that is an extraordinary combination.”
"Brown’s new poetry collection, Fanny Says, includes plenty of Fanny’s speech, Fanny’s recipes, Fanny’s monologues about how to be a lady. . . . The prose poems, spoken entirely by Fanny, suggest oral histories like Studs Terkel’s, if Terkel were rewritten by Loretta Lynn and Lucille Ball. Brown’s verse—which makes up most of the volume—is even better: In it the grown-up lesbian Southern poet celebrates Fanny’s quirks and Fanny’s endurance, laments Fanny’s limited options in ‘such a different time,’ and considers Fanny’s—and her own—white privilege. . . .What would already be a neat set of ‘way-back stories/ hard as the lichen-green apples/ of Kentucky,’ told only in Nickole’s or Fanny’s voice, gets depth from the way that we hear both together: Brown neither whitewashes nor condescends, but shows us ‘how/ hard she worked/ to become/ who she was.’"
—Stephen Burt, San Francisco Chronicle
"There is a universalism at work in Fanny Says that Brown allows and directs rather than forms and shifts. It is a dense work of poems, functioning as a memoir and a history lesson by way of the comedian. Brown is always tender but does not shy from exposing faults and social problems. Her ability to record and recreate the things her grandmother said is a prowess far beyond her. The reader is so immersed in Fanny it is as if we know her. Getting to know Fanny is like examining America, first the shoes, then the belt, and finally the hair-do. . . . Fanny Says remains a tender character study above all else. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a film adapted from this."
"A cross-genre hybrid work of lyric intensity, the poetry collection Fanny Says distills gritty realism through the voice of Fanny, a Kentucky grandmother, and through the voice of a speaker, her granddaughter the poet Nickole Brown. These authentic voices weave together, holding conversations real and imagined, binding the collection through an epic family saga of women’s secrets and hard truths demanding to be heard. . . . In much the same way that creative nonfiction promises truth, this collection skirts the boundaries of confessional poetry by giving a voice to speakers beyond the author."
—Aimee Parkinson, American Book Review
“Fanny Says is animated by the elemental principles of presence—the unique habits of an individual and the flaring of its influence through language. . . . The granddaughter honors the matriarch not through emulation but observation immune to the typical acids of generational judgment. . . . The granddaughter respects her own memories by recognizing them as preserved fragments. Converted into language for the telling, each piece assumes its own shape. Richly conceived, Fanny Says is dense with material yet welcoming in its spirited shape-shifting. It is cross-genre with a purpose. . . . Although Fanny Says has the authority of documentary, its presence comprises something both more grand and strange—a mind simultaneously borrowing and separating from its sources.”
—Ron Slate, On the Seawall
"This is not your Hallmark card grandmother. This is a grandmother that says fucker and swills Pepsi and drives a white Cadillac Eldorado. She is not always easy, and not always neat, but she is always, always authentic. . . . Brown’s refusal to hack off pieces of her grandmother to fit the binary of good/bad allows the reader to embrace her complexity. To see her through both the affection and hot embarrassment of the speaker. This is a poetry collection that not only holds up a mirror to one person, but to how one person can be created by a place and time.”
—Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Poetry International
"The poems in the collection are all tied together by the woman who raised Brown: the wry, ass-kicking, feminist-before-feminism-was-a-thing Kentucky grandmother whose name is in the title. . . . I'm constantly marveling at what Brown has captured: a plainspun epic about a woman who would have likely fanned her hand and shushed the idea she was epic. In painting this intimate, intricate portrait of her grandmother, Brown has somehow managed to create an ode to all strong women everywhere, no matter their age. Each poem is simply a delight from beginning to end."
—David Koon, Arkansas Times
"After the loss of a loved one, people have a tendency to narrow memory’s lens to focus solely on the person’s best qualities. It’s more rare to find someone both remembering and appreciating the whole of a person. Brown’s depiction of her cussing, pill-popping grandmother Fanny, who wears push-up brassieres along with starched, short-sleeved men’s 'business' shirts, is poignant, funny, and utterly real. Fanny’s tone and inflection come alive through the series of poems based on her actual words. And through Brown’s vivid, honest, and surprisingly nonjudgmental reflections, we develop, page by page, a mental image of her grandmother in the mid-twentieth-century South and can’t help but enjoy the process of getting to know Frances Lee Cox. While this collection honors Fanny’s span of years on this planet and her impact on her granddaughter, it also showcases the writer’s humor, insight, and poetic gifts."
—Janet St. John, Booklist
"There are few forces in this world like a true Southern grandmother. Nickole Brown has written a lyric biography of her own in her second collection, Fanny Says. Brown blends descriptions of the immensely wise, brazen and sailor-mouthed Fanny with ruminations on both the power of memory and the Kentucky culture that influenced them both. The editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson, the fabric of Brown's poems share threads of his deeply honest and personal reporting, but Fanny Says proves that she's a literary heavyweight in a class of her own."
“Reading Nickole Brown’s new book of poems is like being introduced to someone you never want to let go, the kind of fierce, tender, acerbic, complicated woman who will snag you by your scruff and tell you what you don’t want to hear, and—in the next breath—what you need to hear. . . . In describing the birthing of Fanny Says and the look-you-right-in-eye tone of these unself-censored poems, Brown invokes Grace Paley: good writing is scrubbing all the lies out. As with so many other artists trying to untangle and reconcile our racist history and present—I am thinking here of the new play An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, and Kara Walker’s silhouettes—her poem “Geneaology of the N-Word” is likely to provoke and teach for generations to come.”
—Janlori Goldman, Gwarlingo
"Nickole Brown first established herself as a major talent with her 2007 novel in poems, Sister, and Fanny Says marks a further development in Brown’s exploration of what a poetry collection can be and do. This substantial book—with its 138 pages of poems—is a both a collection and a biography. In Fanny Says, Brown examines the life of her grandmother, but if that sounds like fertile ground for sentimentality, think again. . . . While poems like ‘Clorox’ and ‘Fanny Linguistics: Publix Hieroglyphics’ have laugh-out-loud funny moments, Fanny Says is largely a serious, often disturbing book. The third section of the book consists entirely of ‘A Genealogy of the Word,’ a long poem first printed in its entirety in TLR’s third issue; in this poem, Brown digs deep into the shame of a family’s racist history, and deals with the painful matter of reconciling a woman she loves with her troubling legacy of intolerance.”
—Kelly Davio, Tahoma Literary Review
"The book’s more serious second half complements the ribald first, and allows Fanny Says to become equal parts romp through weird southern quirks, challenge of antiquated attitudes, and elegy for a beloved grandmother. Like Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish or Sarah Blake’s Mr. West, this book draws its energy from the personality of its main character/subject and the way the speaker engages with it. The main character of Fanny Says is likeable, foulmouthed, strange, immensely memorable, and perhaps most importantly, very funny. In memorializing Fanny, Nickole Brown has made her come alive.”
—Danny Caine, The Los Angeles Review
"Don't write poems about your grandmother is one of those 'rules' heard in beginning poetry workshops, but Nickole Brown dismantles this advice by writing her entire book, Fanny Says, as an 'unleashed lovesong' to her late grandmother. These poems are not just smart, humorous, and surprising, but also deal with real issues that are alive in our country today—racism, abuse, poverty, prescription drugs, sexuality, infidelity, and grief. Brown captures the essence of another generation and brings it forward with care and pizzazz. Fanny Says is a captivating, engaging step back into time and into the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter."
—Kelli Russell Agodon, Crab Creek Review, Editiors' Choice for Best Books
"The volume celebrates the love between grandmothers and graddaughters, and specifically give tribute to Brown's grandmother, Fanny. Brown traces Fanny's life through childhood, marriage, children, granchildren, and the loss of her husband. She divulges Fanny's death and struggles to accept it. . . . Thanks to her skillful handling of personal details, Brown does not make it easy to write off her grandmother despite her failings. . . . In the end, readers take to Fanny because she is undeniably human: mistreated and resilient, cruel and fragile, like all of us."
—Katie Riley, New Madrid
"I started reading Nickole Brown’s newest poetry collection, Fanny Says, and I said to myself, ‘Forget my quaint old granny. Give me one like Nickole’s.’ . . . (her) grandma was profane, outspoken, calling a spade, a spade, tucking an expletive in between, with the same ease she put the grandbaby down for a nap.”
“When Nickole Brown’s 2015 poem ‘Fuck’ showed up on a leaflet in the book room here, I was thrilled, because it was all about that four-letter word that Ralphie got soaped in the mouth for using in A Christmas Story; the word that my mother has finally decided I’m grown-up enough to hear her say while we’re stuck in endless suburban traffic. I expected an ode to a dirty word, and all the cranky, crass ways to use it. But, the best writing subverts expectations, and Brown’s poem is actually a humorous and touching ode to her grandmother, a staunch Southern woman who carried ‘fuck’ around with her like one carries a handbag.”
—“Poetry This Month,” AshleighWilliams, Editorial Assistant, Library Journal
"If you’ve ever heard someone say that someone else ‘fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down’ or that something is ‘as easy as sliding off a greasy log backward,’ then you’ve encountered the kind of folksy oral poetry that Fanny spoke. . . . Ultimately this is a book about the profound relationship between Brown and her grandmother. . . a remarkable act of conjuring."
—Tom C. Hunley, Poemeleon
“Part love song, part biography, part elegy, Brown captures the precise language and dialect her grandmother favored, in Fanny Says, a biography in poems. . . . Brown begins her book with two poems, the first, a tribute to all the tough-on-their-luck grandmas of the world, the second, an in-depth exploration of Fanny’s varied use of the F-word. This sweet and salty pairing sets up the reader for the no-holds-barred ride to come.”
—Lisa Zerkle, The Main Street Rag
"Fanny Says is 138 pages of lush language, written in the dialect of those warm spirits from Nickole’s old Kentucky home, but contrary to some writers, Nickole doesn’t poke fun or make caricatures out of the people of her youth—no—she gives the reader a true glimpse into a world where a word like fuck takes on a whole new meaning when uttered by the acerbic tongue of Miss Fanny.”
—Angela Jackson-Brown, Writing in the Deep
"Nickole Brown’s Fanny Says is both a collection of poetry and a biography of the author’s grandmother, the titular Fanny. Brown’s poetry combines all aspects of Fanny’s life — from her own personal set of malapropisms, to her love of Pepsi (and Joan Crawford), the word “fuck”, and more. In Fanny Says, Fanny is given the ability to live again in the minds of all those who read it."