Jacket design by Martha Simpson

Jacket design by Martha Simpson

The Master Letters

 Published by Alfred A. Knopf
April 1995
Jacket Painting: Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Woman, 15th c.


Lucie Brock-Broido's first collection, A Hunger, was highly praised by many critics and poets.  Stanley Kunitz said of it, "The poems are original, strange, often unsettling, and mostly beautiful." His words apply with equal cogency to The Master Letters.

Her richly textured new book takes its title from the three mysterious letters left by Emily Dickinson at her deathtwo addressed to "Dear Master," the third to recipient unknown.  Lucie Brock-Broido's verse-letters echo and traverse Dickinson's wilderness of injury and worship; her language is at once blistering and mystical. These are her own brocade devastationsa tapestry of abandonment and bliss.
Read a Q&A with the author here 
Read selected poetry from The Master Letters


Praise for The Master Letters

"Reading The Master Letters is like watching Philippe Petit walk a tightrope across the space between the two World Trade Center towers without a safety net underneath. In poems and poetic prose that linger in the mind, Lucie Brock-Broido pays homage to Emily Dickinson by investigating the lair of the secret self where bliss and blighted hope reside and the fierce yet playful drama of salvation is acted out. Lucie Brock-Broido reclaims for American poetry a Baroque voice that is arresting, 'unbridled,' aphoristic, and beautiful."
Herbert Leibowitz

"The poems are celebrations of language, often contorting words and syntax into surprising new shapes, at their best . . . . This is a brave collection; challenging, sometimes difficult, ambitious and relentless in its experimentation with language and form.
—Publishers Weekly

"The gifted Brock-Broido . . . . 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."
Library Journal

"This is a poet who cultivates elegant nerviness and a riveting poetic clairvoyance, daring the soul to push deeper and deeper into unwrit dimensions . . . .Gorgeous." 
Carol Muske-Dukes, Los Angeles Times

"Brock-Broido welds her lines with echoes and variations of assonance and internal rhyme.  She is a brilliant choreographer of sentence, line, and stanza: her stops, starts, and silences are both gratifyingly unexpected and possessed of a rare quality of inevitability, as demonstrated in her deft management of both couplet and prose poem, the two forms here employed."
Karen Volkman, Harvard Review read more