"a style like this one has to fail some of the time"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I never lose my appreciation for deep intelligence on the page. I look, especially in the work of critics, for language that teaches about the art of living and the act of creation.

Recently, Dan Chiasson, pondering Lucie Brock-Broido's new collection, "Stay, Illusion," wrote this below in The New Yorker.

I pay attention, both to the style of Chiasson's own sentences—look, for example, at that second one—and to the considerable impact of the suggestion that some styles will inevitably find subjects that suit them badly.

Indeed. And so we work. And so we learn what we are capable of—and not.

But the poems in "Stay, Illusion" do not feel like the work of slow and steady accumulation. Instead, they have a blurted quality, as though long-roiling tumult finally blew off the stopper. The thrill of improvisation is precisely that it cannot be isolated from the risk of mere looniness or doodling. I don't like everything in Brock-Broido's work, but, to steer clear of tour de force, a style like this one has to fail some of the time; it has to find some subject that suits it badly.


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