Safe Words

Palimpsest Press, 2018

"Brown discovers her own mind through the act of writing, which is exactly as it should be. An exciting debut.”—James Arthur, Charms Against Lightning

Shortlisted for the 2019 ReLit Award


"From a student’s confrontation with a teenage streaker, to a company man’s complete undoing at his summer party, Michelle Brown’s Safe Words finds rich darkness in happy partnerships. A maiden name is “handed down / like a sweater”, a taxi ride “ends… at someone else’s life”. Played against a backdrop of pop culture, late-night swagger and vivid imaginary landscapes, Safe Words is the rare poetic debut that delivers passion and control, wielding humour and empathy in equal parts."

In Safe Words Michelle Brown enacts rites of passage, initiation, transformation. As I read, I leap through “the swooping arcs of life,” fortified by the charm of language and its spells, and feeling totally refreshed. Now I’m me, but brazen, blood and sequins, “momentarily alive.”—Sheryda Warrener, author of Floating is Everything

“I loved reading these poems. Some are tough and confrontational, others tender. All, however, spring from line to line with great energy and panache, never settling for cliché, often chasing an iambic rhythm or braiding together subtle strands of internal rhyme. Brown’s poems are rich in feeling, yet those feelings are often mixed: Brown discovers her own mind through the act of writing, which is exactly as it should be. An exciting debut.”
—James Arthur, Charms Against Lightning


recent online publications



Michelle Brown's work has been published in The Walrus, Malahat Review, Arc, CV2, Grain, Prism and The Puritan, amongst others. Shortlisted for Malahat Review's Open Season award, CV2's Young Buck prize and the CBC poetry prize, she lives in Toronto where she works as a copywriter and runs an online fabric store.