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The Master Letters Paperback – April 1, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From 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 cliche 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
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (April 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679765999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679765998
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #235,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. H. Boroson on June 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
I spent days, after reading this book, weeks, imbibing and re-imbibing every syllable. I felt the kind of drunk, dizzy, first-time-in-love kind of love for this language that I hadn't felt for poetry in a decade. I've gone back and read it again maybe two, three, or ninety times since, and it hasn't lost its vertigos of wonder. It has inspired a host of imitators (Brenda Shaughnessy, Karen Volkman, Mary Jo Bang), none of whom are as brave or wild or awe-inducing. That an author so unprolific should inspire a whole new branch of writing bespeaks the importance of this book; poets who read it often feel that they've found something that had been missing from all poetries leading up to it, and afterwards everything they read seems predictable, emotionless, and linguistically flat. The last time a book came along that was this daring and this powerful, it was posthumous: Sylvia Plath's _Ariel_, whose swoops and deft gestures of language don't actually come close to those of _The Master Letters_.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
This reworking of themes from Dickinson and other sources is sexy, intellectual, sentimental, unsentimental, funny, heartbreaking, and groovy. Lucie Brock Broido is one of the most talented and under-appreciated poets writing today. An example of brilliance: "was keeper of the badly marred, was furious done god."
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By A. Wesker on May 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
Pound-for-pound, these poems have imaginative heft without peer in contemporary poetry. While a few pieces are somewhat overwrought, when one considers the comparative gauntness (in every sense) of verse outside Heaney, Gluck (at times), and Brock-Broido's work, these are a relief. Check out "Carrowmore" and "Am Moor" specifically.
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