In her fifth full-length collection, poet Catharine Savage Brosman gracefully employs a wide array of forms and styles to address the ontological question—the problem of being, including the “momentary flame” of human life—and the complexity of relationships with others and with oneself.
The first section, “A Distant Shore,” introduces characters chronologically from King Minos to D. H. Lawrence —mythological, historical, or anonymous travelers of one kind or another —who are given voice through Brosman’s craft in seamless transitions among free verse, blank verse, and rhyme. In second part, “The Muscled Truce,” twelve short poems in rhymed iambic tetrameter describe activities, from beekeeping and gardening to skating and winegrowing, as ways of encountering the world, acting on it, and meeting its demands. The book closes with “A Cosmic Comedy,” in which works about contemporary, often mundane situations reinforce earlier metaphysical concerns of nature, religion, aging, and death.
At turns witty and weighty, personal and universal, The Muscled Truce bears Brosman’s indelible emotional imprint and reveals her amazing technical flexibility, continuing her tradition of writing “poetry that might legitimately be assigned a vintage” (Baton Rouge Advocate).
A thousand years from now, what will men know?
I give them my advice: to watch their wives,
their daughters. Ariadne shows a streak
of independence, making eyes at youths who hang
around the beaches, trying to insinuate herself
with guardians of the maze. In a secret chamber
lie my wealth and, in four scripts, the tablets
of my wisdom. Keen is he who will unseal
them and retrieve the key. I shall be dead, after
much suffering perhaps, which purifies;
then what we did will dazzle those who dig
the eddying sands in the confusions of another
world, while waters crash from sea-caves,
trumpeting, and chariots gather on a crimson shore.
From “King Minos Speaks” published in The Muscled Truce: Poems by Catharine Savage Brosman. Copyright © 2003 by Catharine Savage Brosman. All rights reserved.
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