Periodic Companions is a balm for this contemporary moment, where many are discouraged and exhausted and have lost sight of the hive. Laynie Browne reminds us that the people we build our lives next to—even if they’re highly reactive entities, consumed by improbable endeavors—are what help us to materialize. This is one of the most consoling novels I've read in years. It is profound and completing.
Reading Laynie Browne's Periodic Companions - I hear Wittgnstein whisper "Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same" - I echo him: The lyrical is conceptual and the conceptual is lyrical and when the poetry is tremendous as in this book, these boundaries collapse, and what remains is the human in tears, returned to their basic element/s, in order to explore how they can mix with and alter each other. This profound longing to experience from different vantage points, to see like an other, is resolved here via chemistry. Reading Periodic Companions, I came close to believing that we might not be just destined to long, we might actually be able to live as multiple. Laynie is one of my teachers in becoming a better poet and better human. This book taught me a lot.
Periodic Companions is a daring and wonderful novel. It recounts past events from the perspective of invocation rather than evocation and uses words as spells capable of summoning phantoms. Some sentences struck me like verses—“I would not be myself without the city”. As in Blanchot’s novels, the possibility or impossibility of language is a subject in itself. Questioning the conventions of plot and characters, Laynie Browne explores the collective nature of every story—and the way relationships are often based on the creation of a secret language.
—Daniel Saldaña Paris
Every day more pressing and relevant, Periodic Companions is a novel that points to the conditions that allow for generative as opposed to violent work in the face of tragedy and loss of hope. Its characters, based on the periodic table of elements, are constantly in dialogue with how we react, what we give off, and what it means to subvert our existing conditions. They remind us that while we have innate and proscribed capacities to act, the ways these come into being in relationship not only remains flexible but also matters most. Periodic Companions asks, what does it mean to live from what we know and what we are, and what does it mean to change? How do we relate to inherited and learned characteristics? What allows us to generate, re-generate and co-generate? The sheer weight of it was paralyzing but it did not exist without us, Browne writes, and so we are invited in to our complicity and agency. Periodic Companions’ conversations and contradictions are a both mythologies and instruction manuals for the evolution and dissolution of contemporary stuckness--and these days, who doesn’t need to be un-stuck?
Laynie Browne is a poet, prose writer, teacher, and editor. Her most recent collections of poems include You Envelop Me (Omnidawn), P R A C T I C E (SplitLevel 2015), and Scorpyn Odes (Kore Press 2015). Her honors include a 2014 Pew Fellowship, the National Poetry Series Award (2007) for her collection The Scented Fox, and the Contemporary Poetry Series Award (2005) for her collection Drawing of a Swan Before Memory. Her poetry has been translated into French, Spanish, Chinese, and Catalan. She is co-editor of I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (Les Figues Press, 2012) and is currently editing an anthology of original essays on the Poet’s Novel. She teaches at University of Pennsylvania and at Swarthmore College.