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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
In Copacabana at Midnight: Collected Poems and Stories, Brian Ray Brewer presents his excellent and challenging work in the form of 130 poems and twelve stories of varying lengths. The collection’s title piece is set in Brazil during the pandemic where a lonely man seeks comfort from a prostitute. It’s an evocative piece with stark details from the point of view of a woman who is seeking escape from her desperate existence in the slums of Rio. Brewer’s empathy for both characters emerges from the sordid and realistic details of their encounter in an airport parking lot and marks the author’s brilliance as a storyteller. His poetry is dazzling also, as his homage to Poe, Keats, Blake, and Dickenson might indicate—no greeting card simplicity here. Some poems are short and pithy (like Emily’s), others longer, mostly free verse, mostly iambic, and often cleverly rhymed—a great read for lovers of verse.
When reading any anthology, I look for the author’s writing skill and overall message, but also variety and range. Mr. Brewer’s first poetry section, Cries Primeval (67 pieces) showed me everything I seek in fine art, primarily wisdom and love-of-life mixed with life’s cruel ironies. Wit, also. His short, rhymed Steaming On is about hard, muscled work; The Path Seemed Clear contrasts the certainty of youth with the uncertainty of middle age. Diamonds and You is a moving love poem. The second poetry section, From a Seaman to His Wife gives us not only the various aspects of the sea but nature imagery involving salmon, moon shadows, crocs, and even an isolated land bird trapped aboard. And of course, the stages of emotions being apart from one’s love. All of Mr. Brewer’s work is a wonderful mixture of accessibility and ambiguity, horror and joy, depravity and love. Copacabana at Midnight: Collected Poems and Stories by Brian Ray Brewer will be a delight and an engaging challenge to anyone appreciative of superb literary writing.