The human mind shapes disparate landscapes to its own contours in this rich and varied collection of poems by Catharine Savage Brosman. The canyon country of the Southwest, parts of Virginia, the Gulf Coast, France, and the Caribbean figure prominently in the poet’s meditations on the alchemy that occurs in that groove where the mind meets the world.
Brosman uses a variety of verse forms to explore her theme, which is the triumph of human perspective. Her technical mastery and virtuosity support a wisdom that is as distilled as the desert air. The title poem opens the collection and introduces the theme:
What was proposed in ecstasies of clouds
and later, vast illuminations only seems
transcendent, trumpeting glory; the light
consumes itself, without desire. At dusk,
images flush up on radiant wings, and fill
the air with cries from distant flights.
Throughout the volume, the poet ponders the connections between action and love, between present and past, between people and places. She displays an extraordinary sensitivity to landscapes and to the rituals of place, and in “Peaches”:
This fruit preserved in husbanding happiness
for future weeks; something of autumn
is already in their ripening,
the reconciliation of reason and love.
All of the poems speak to the search for a language by which to apprehend the experience of the world. In some, this search is more overt, as in “Crossing to Evian”:
. . . Later, friends
will ask us for accounts, supposing that
we bring back something neat and telling,
like a photograph; but have you tried to fit
a glimpse of order, knowing and perfected
in its resplendent gaze, into the journey’s
darkness, the moving contours of the mind?
Brosman’s voice is very much her own and one that has a great deal to say in this extraordinary work.
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