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The Master Letters
     

The Master Letters

1.0 1
by Lucie Brock-Broido
 

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The title of this richly textured book derives from two of the three mysterious letters left by Emily Dickinson--the ones addressed to "Dear Master." Lucie Brock-Boido has imagined a series of letters echoing devices found in Dickinson's own work. "We feel we are in the presence of something entirely new, " says Bonnie Costello in The Boston

Overview

The title of this richly textured book derives from two of the three mysterious letters left by Emily Dickinson--the ones addressed to "Dear Master." Lucie Brock-Boido has imagined a series of letters echoing devices found in Dickinson's own work. "We feel we are in the presence of something entirely new, " says Bonnie Costello in The Boston Review. "Not even Brock-Broido's wonderful first book, A Hunger, prepares us for this bold encounter."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Three mysterious letters (two beginning ``Dear Master'') written by Emily Dickinson and discovered after her death are the starting point for Brock-Broido's (A Hunger) second collection. The 52 works in this extended tribute echo many of Dickinson's stylistic and formal devices and often exhibit a similar stance toward their subjects. The poems are celebrations of language, often contorting words and syntax into surprising new shapes, at their best (e.g., ``The Supernatural Is Only The Natural, Disclosed'') playing in the mind like music, with a meaning and beauty that outreach literal comprehension: ``I'm listening/ to the fluorescent light come on/ In April, flinging a hot white scarf/ Across a month mottled by the chemicals/ Of eastern standard time.'' At their weakest, the works are self-consciously literary, overstuffed with allusion and reference. But Brock-Broido is clearly a kindred spirit to the Belle of Amherst, an audacious writer possessed of a grave intensity, as in the prose piece ``Haute Couture Vulgarity'': ``I have too much of the martyr, would set myself ablaze-just for the bright light of the fire, a curiosity, for a cause if I had one, a Flame.'' This is a brave collection; challenging, sometimes difficult, ambitious and relentless in its experimentation with language and form. (Oct.)
Library Journal
A simple idea: loosely base a book of poems on Emily Dickinson's letters. Of course, it is not such a simple idea, especially when the three strangest letters have been chosen as a leadoff. These are the marvelous, even erotic Master Letters, addressed to an unknown recipient, the Master, perhaps God, but never sent. The gifted Brock-Broido (A Hunger, LJ 9/15/88) proffers a vision sustained by an arresting voice variously dominant and submissive to the shadow presence, the Master: "In a gospel/According to Hunters, you name your bird/Without a gun. You sit & watch as one does in the woods,/Contemplating prey, awefully. You've a heart as large/as a silver cleat, small thing." These poems are hard to pin down, and perhaps that is the point: Brock-Broido gives the impression of writing within her subject-a solitary voice trapped in simultaneous history where truth and clich lie only in the ruins of revelation. In one of the last, something of the method may be revealed: "In winter when moss sheathes every thing alive/& everything not or once alive./ That I would be-dryadic, gothic, fanatic against/The vanishing; I will not speak to you again." One only hopes this is not the case. Highly recommended.-Steven R. Ellis, Pennsylvania State Univ. Libs., University Park

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679765998
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/28/1997
Pages:
96
Sales rank:
865,292
Product dimensions:
6.16(w) x 9.23(h) x 0.25(d)

Read an Excerpt

"Am Moor"

Am lean against.
Am the heavy hour

Hand at urge,
At the verge of one. Am the ice comb of the tonsured

Hair, am the second
Hand, halted, the velvet opera glove. Am slant. Am fen, the injure

Wind at withins,
Stranger where the storm forms a face if the body stands enough

In a weather this
Cripple & this rough. Am shunt. Was moon-shaped helmet left

In bog, was condition
Of a spirit shorn, childlike & herd. Was Andalusian, ambsace,

Bird. Am kept.
Was keeper of the badly marred, was furious done god, was

Patient, was bad
Luck, was nurse. Ninety badly wounded men lay baying

In the reddened reedy
Hay of Saxony, was surgeon to their flinch & hoop, was hospice

To their torso hall,
Was numinous creature to their dying

Off. Am numb.
Was shoulder & queer luck. Am among.

Was gaunt.
Was--why--or the mutton & moss. Was the rented room.

Was chamber & ambage
& tender & burn. Am esurient, was the hungry form.

Am anatomy.
Was the bleating thing.

Meet the Author

Lucie Brock-Broido is the author of an earlier book of poems, A Hunger (1988). From 1988 to 1993 she was a Briggs-Copeland poet at Harvard University. She has taught also at the Bennington Writing Seminars and at Priceton University, and is now director of poetry in the Writing Division in the School of the Arts at Columbia University. She lives in New York City and in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Why do some poets continue to get published when they take shortcuts? Shortcuts in the form of abstraction. There is so much beauty in the world, where didn't she go wrong?