Chrome Valley: Poems (Hardcover)
From Lincoln Center’s inaugural poet-in-residence comes this unflinching collection that intricately mines the experience of being a Black woman in America.
Boldly lyrical and fiercely honest, Mahogany L. Browne’s Chrome Valley offers an intricate portrait of Black womanhood in America. “We praise their names / & the hands that write / Praise the mouth that speaks,” she writes in tribute to those who came before her.
Browne captures a quintessential girlhood through the pleasures and pangs of young love: the thrill of skating hip to hip at the roller rink, the heat of holding hands in the dark, and, sometimes, the sting of a palm across the cheek. Friendship, too, comes with its own complex yearnings: “you ain’t had freedom / ’til you climb on bus 62 / & head to the closest mall / for a good seat at the girl fight.”
Reflections of Browne’s mother, Redbone, bolster the collection with moments of unwavering strength: “give me my mother’s bone structure / & her gap tooth slaughter / give me her spine—Redbone got a spine for the world.” Other moments explore the inherent anxieties shared among Black mothers, rhythmically intoning names like the tolling of a church bell: “Because Kadiatou Diallo / Because Sybrina Fulton / Because Valeria Bell / Because Mamie Till.”
The characters in Chrome Valley grapple with the legacies of inherited trauma but also revel in the beauty of the undaunted self-determination passed down from Black woman to Black woman. Transcendent and grounded, funny and furious, Chrome Valley brings depth to a movement, solidifying Mahogany L. Browne as one of the most significant poetic voices of our time.
About the Author
Mahogany L. Browne, selected as one of the Kennedy Center’s Next 50, is the executive director of JustMedia, founder of the Woke Baby Book Fair, and artistic director of Urban Word NYC. Her most recent works are Woke: A Young Poet’s Guide to Justice and the young adult novel Vinyl Moon.
Generous and expansive—a decidedly full work. Across her poems, Browne deftly creates atmosphere through juxtaposition and pacing.
— Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions, "Must-Read Poetry: Winter 2023"