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This review is taken from PN Review 217, Volume 40 Number 5, May - June 2014.

State of the Union lucie brock-broido, Stay, Illusion (Alfred A. Knopf) US$26.00
peter campion, El Dorado (University of Chicago Press) US$18.00

Lucie Brock-Broido has published just one collection of poems per decade since her debut, A Hunger, in 1988. Her fourth collection, Stay, Illusion, offers a slight departure from her first three books yet manages to maintain its own surprises throughout. Yes, there are more jungle cats, more poems about girls and hair. But here Brock-Broido’s forms seem finalised, almost complete. Her lines, to an American reader, might place her in the tradition of Jorie Graham and, further back, of Dickinson. But they hang together in an unusual, cosmopolitan manner, more like the late ghazals of the Australian poet Judith Wright, or maybe the surrealist poems of René Char (a line of whose, in Mary Ann Caws’ translation, is part of Brock-Broido’s own ‘Hello Babies, Welcome to the Earth’).

In a Brock-Broido poem, each line seems to push out the next, so that the music is, I want to say symphonic, but more like a parade: a steady and quickly paced marching band moving past a reader seated comfortably (or not) on a mailbox. Though the flutes have moved along, their sound remains, but only until the next instrument overpowers them. In this way, the poems are less like the menageries of so much contemporary poetry than processionals. Because of this, it’s difficult to paraphrase her poems, or even quote from them – a reader needs the candlelight in the third line from ‘Cave Painting of a Dun Horse’ to realise why the light coming back at the end is significant:

The etching of ...

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