In the far future, when the only readers who cherish and puzzle over Lucie Brock-Broido’s poems are those who never met her, those readers will surely try to imagine what she must have been like in person. Perhaps they will know that she was a charismatic teacher, that she made such an impression in the lives of her students that everybody who knew her (at Harvard, in Cambridge, at Columbia University School of Arts) said there was no one like her. And those readers of the future will try to compile her personal manner from her verse style: gorgeous, elaborate, allusive, sometimes Gothic or haunted, at other times able to revel in beauty, all of it driven by her “propensity for lavish / Order in certain seasons of the year.” She must have been (these readers will assume) an authority figure in an unusual way, a way that drew into itself so many styles—lacy, bejeweled, able to hide at whim, aware of mascara, given to ornament, catlike. She chose rhetoric, chose devices that much of the literary past (the parts of the past run by dudes) believed could not hold power.
Those readers will be right. The past, the patriarchal past, was very wrong, and Lucie was right about it. The future readers will quote her sentences to one another, smiling at their discoveries, and realizing how long the sentences continue, unraveling and reknitting themselves into the big closures that her poems so often find. Just to read the poetry is to see—in its hypermetric lines, its cliff-face line breaks, its “gathering / Of foxes oddly standing still in the milk broth of oblivion”—how there was more to her and more in the poetry, more to consider (before reflecting) beautiful, and more to gather into the self for reflection than most poets, and most poetry, have in store. Read More