Brush the Distance

Cath­arine Savage Brosman’s latest book, Breakwater, is a stimulating addition to her always intriguing poetic realm.  The book is packed with superlative individual poems, and their cumulative effect strikes this reviewer as majestic.

Breakwater is divided into three sections.  Section I is an extended love poem involving the poet and the man to whom she was married some 40 years ago (and with whom she has serendipitously reunited).  At the end of the book, she presents a “Postface,” which gives the past and present histories of this relationship.  I advise the reader to go to this section before starting on the poems.  Though they certainly stand on their own without explanation, the Postface adds a depth of understanding to the poems that makes experiencing them even richer.  For most poets, Section I would be dangerous to attempt; it would be easy to slip into maudlin platitudes.  But Brosman’s skill enables her to pull it off.  The personal aspects of the poems—the romantic feelings and affirmations—are painstakingly developed out of impersonal, concrete physical settings (scenes from the American West) that, as the poet reflects upon them, become metaphors for the relationship.  For instance, after five stanzas of descriptive passage about a landscape nearly destroyed by fire, she ends “In the Hayman Burn” by using this picture as a way of...

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