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Stay, Illusion

Stay, Illusion

by Lucie Brock-Broido

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National Book Award Finalist

Stay, Illusion, the much-anticipated volume of poems by Lucie Brock-Broido, illuminates the broken but beautiful world she inhabits. Her poems are lit with magic and stark with truth: whether they speak from the imagined dwelling of her “Abandonarium,” or from habitats where animals are farmed and harmed


National Book Award Finalist

Stay, Illusion, the much-anticipated volume of poems by Lucie Brock-Broido, illuminates the broken but beautiful world she inhabits. Her poems are lit with magic and stark with truth: whether they speak from the imagined dwelling of her “Abandonarium,” or from habitats where animals are farmed and harmed “humanely,” or even from the surreal confines of death row, they find a voice like no other—dazzling, intimate, startling, heartbreaking.

Eddying between the theater of the lavish and the enigmatic, between the gaudy and the unadorned, Brock-Broido’s verse scours America for material to render unflinchingly the here and now. Grandeur devolves into a comic irony: “We have come to terms with our Self / Like a marmoset getting out of her Great Ape suit.” She dares the unexplained: “The wings were left ajar / At the altar where I’ve knelt all night, trembling, leaning, rough / As sugar raw, and sweet.” Each poem is a rebellious chain of words: “Be good, they said, and so too I was / Good until I was not.” Strange narratives, interior and exterior, make a world that is foreign and yet our own; like Dickinson, Brock-Broido constructs a spider-sibling, commanding the “silk spool of the recluse as she confects her eventual mythomania.” And why create the web? Because: “If it is written down, you can’t rescind it.”

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 08/26/2013
Gorgeous and grim, elaborate yet forthright about the causes (and the effects) of its sadness, this fourth collection from Brock-Broido (Trouble in Mind) spins, drapes, and sculpts its virtuosic figures around the ideas and emotions of mourning. Often Brock-Broido commemorates her father, remembering him on his own, in her family, in conjunction with her own past selves: “If my own voice falters,” one poem begins, “tell them hubris was my way of adoring you.” (Her title quotes Hamlet, addressing his father’s ghost.) Long lines deliquesce; long titles and longer sentences mix ceremonial beauty with self-reproach, not only in the many poems that touch on the poet’s family but also in the standouts that remember other events, not least the executions of Tookie Williams and other victims of the American death penalty. Part tapestry, part astronomy, part dollhouse, the metaphorical verve that has made Brock-Broido influential—and sometimes controversial—remains abundant: Brock-Broido envisions herself once “In a poplin nightgown and my mallow-color shoes,// With all my lionlikes about me,” and again with “my own ivory hillocks, my toy/ Pram filled with slippery mice, my own mares fetlock-deep in squalls/ Of snow.” And yet—even more than in her previous book (which remembered her mother)—Brock-Broido can grow stark, unornamented, directly moving, too. A poem about a dying body asks, “Put your hands/ Into the sheets and tell me where the needles are,” and a fine elegy for the poet Liam Rector concludes, simply, “Would that our Liam were living still.” (Oct.)
Library Journal
The world created by Witter Bynner Prize winner Brock-Broido (Trouble in Mind) is elegant, self-contained, baroquely sensuous, and gaspingly, glazedly beautiful. It's also a tough world to enter, requiring fierce concentration as we step gingerly through seemingly disassociated lines: "If it is written down, you can't rescind it./ Spoon and potage bowl./ You are starving. Come closer." Once we arrive, we start seeing trouble, the gorgeousness edged by sadness, hunger, death: "The misfortunes of a saint condemned to turn great sorrows// into greater egrets, ice-bound and irrevocable." Even as Brock-Broido uses supreme magic to transform those sorrows, she reminds us of our physicality ("Your heart was a mess—// a mob of hoofprints"), our indifference ("How dare you come home from your factory/ …weathered/ and incurious"), our neediness ("I miss your heart, my heart"), our dwelling in a world of "sooty basements of churches/ Full of persons wrapped in the coppery leather limbs of methadone" and "private gardens/…[where] the animals are harnessed in// Or bled out broad." VERDICT There's no easy escaping in these poems, and Brock-Broido makes us work for our pleasure, but many will start out doubters and end up converts. Grand for sophisticated readers.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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Read an Excerpt

You Have Harnessed Yourself Ridiculously To This World
Tell the truth I told me                       When I couldn’t speak.
Sorrow’s a barbaric art, crude as a Viking ship            Or a child
Who rode a spotted pony to the lake away from summer
In the 1930s                                    Toward the iron lung of polio.
According to the census I am unmarried                                    And unchurched.
The woman in the field dressed only in the sun.
Too far gone to halt the Arctic Cap’s catastrophe, big beautiful
Blubbery white bears each clinging to his one last hunk of ice.
I am obliged, now, to refrain from dying, for as long as it is possible.
For whom left am I first?
We have come to terms with our Self
Like a marmoset getting out of her Great Ape suit.
Dove, Interrupted 
Don’t do that when you’re dead like this, I said,
Arguably still squabbling about the word inarguably.
I haunt Versailles, poring through the markets of the medieval.
Mostly meat to be sold there. Mutton hangs
Like laundry pinkened on its line.
And gold! —a chalice with a cure for living in it.
We step over the skirt of an Elizabeth.
Red grapes, a delicacy, each peeled for us—each sheath 
The vestment of a miniature priest, disrobed.
A sister is an Old World sparrow placed in a satin shoe.
The weakling’s saddle is worn down from just too much sad attitude.
No one wants to face the “opaque reality” of herself.
For the life of me.
I was made American. You must consider this.
Whatever suffering is insufferable is punishable by perishable.
In Vienne, the rabbit Maurice is at home in the family cage.
I ache for him, his boredom and his solitude.
On suffering and animals, inarguably, they do.
I miss your heart, my heart.

For A Snow Leopard in October

Stay, little ounce, here in 
Fleece and leaf with me, in the evermore
Where swans trembled in the lake around our bed of hay and morning
Came each morning like a felt cloak billowing
Across the most pale day. It was the color of a steeple disappearing
In an old Venetian sky. Or of a saint tamping the grenadine
Of his heavy robes before the Blessing of the Animals.
I’ve heard tell of men who brought Great Pyrenees, a borzoi, or
Some pocket mice, baskets of mourning doves beneath their wicker lids,
A chameleon on a leash from the Prussian circuses,
And from the farthest Caucasus, some tundra wolves in pairs.
In a meadow I had fallen
As deep in sleep as a trilobite in the red clay of the centuries.
Even now, just down our winding road, I can hear the children blanketing
Themselves to sleep in leaves from maple trees.
No bad dreams will come to them I know
Because once, in the gone-ago, I was a lynx as well, safe as a tiger-iris
In its silt on the banks of the Euphrates,  as you were. Would they take
You now from me, like Leonardo’s sleeve disappearing in
The air. And when I woke I could not wake
You, little sphinx, I could not keep you here with me. Anywhere, I could not bear to let you go. Stay here
In our clouded bed of wind and timothy with me.
Lie here with me in snow.

Meet the Author

LUCIE BROCK-BROIDO is the author of three previous collections of poetry, A HungerThe Master Letters, and Trouble in Mind. She is Director of Poetry in the School of the Arts at Columbia University and has been the recipient of awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in New York City and in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

From the Hardcover edition.

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