by Louis Daniel Brodsky
Dance of the Water Striders
On a meandering whim, impulse —
To traipse through the woods, just before dusk adjusts to sunset —
I head out, taking nothing with me
But the warm clothing in which I'm dressed
And a sense of reverence, ecstasy, the essence of revelation.
My psyche is primed to encounter lichen, fungi, moss,
Chipmunks, skunks, red, gray, and black squirrels,
Join shadows with throaty crows pecking at carcass garbage,
Ducks plucking sustenance from the lake's shallows,
Leaves, crimson and gold, fleeing maples, on fall’s spastic blasts.
After an hour and a half, I return to the camp's back gate,
Amble some four hundred paces to my warm cabin,
But not before stepping out onto the yet-intact fishing dock,
Coming eye to eye with nature's necessary choreography,
September's complex dance steps —
Balletic water striders, etching, in their frenetic wakes,
Exquisitely intricate zigzags, spirals, interweaving ripples,
For infinitely brief lifetimes, prior to being eaten alive
By surfacing-in-a-blur fish surfeiting their mindless appetites,
In a world where beauty belies impersonal mercilessness.
At Shore's Border, volume three of Louis Daniel Brodsky's connected suites of poems on his special quest for his "exquisite nowhere," completes (but does not conclude) the story of his series of deliberate returns to the special place of his childhood and adolescence.
The poems of this present volume are encouraging to the reader of the two previous collections, especially as the poet seems to have found what he was looking for when he undertook this project, in At Water's Edge.
These poems give us a splendid tapestry of the poet's new/old selves and a celebration of the world in which he now lives, "sensing the endlessness of my immediate life."
Like Thoreau, he furnishes his cabin, and his narrative, in order to welcome guests (including, of course, readers) to share his "solitude."
— James B. Carothers, author of William Faulkner's Short Stories and Reading Faulkner: Collected Stories (with Theresa M. Towner)
Louis Daniel Brodsky is not only a great voice of the Middle West but has captured the best elements of its soul, in his poetry. His incandescent verses bristle with intelligence, clarity, and feeling.
— James Howard Kunstler, author of the World Made By Hand novels and The Long Emergency
Reading Brodsky's poetry about Lake Nebagamon and Camp Nebagamon reminds one of choosing to go to a favorite art museum, to see works of a specific genre that are of particular interest. There would be pieces that one would view with passing interest, and there would be others that would draw one back, over and over again.
The tug of youth recalled and age resisted is one to which many of us can relate, especially those who have shared Brodsky’s experience either in the area, in general, or at the camp, in particular.
The images are hauntingly familiar and jump off the page; the references are like sweet candy; and the dramatic tension of the poetry is a captivating reprise of our own feelings about the things we have loved so deeply, personally, and privately and which will always be etched into our souls.
Brodsky not only writes about this place and this experience, but his writing suggests all the complexity of the many layers of his relationship to this place, in space and time. It is a real gift to be able to see all of this, through his eyes.
— Allen B. Bennett, Rabbi of Temple Israel, Alameda, California
I've read your poems and like them a lot. I admire, especially, hearing a new sense of yearning, a sense of the widening margins of your life and your response to the natural world. The language, as ever, is crisp and clear, which is rare in poets.
— Jay Parini, author of Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America, Why Poetry Matters, and The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems
Until the Nebagamon books, I'd envied no man. Now, I envy Brodsky, who is both Thor and Thoreau (passionate ruler and passive observer) of this ladylike lake, which I feel I know so well. This volume is the best of the trilogy. Contrary to the title, it's no border; it's a faithful plunge into the lake herself, into Brodsky's fathomless soul, into and out of time, into our own swimless selves.
— David Herrle, editor of SubtleTea.com and author of Abyssinia, Jill Rush
Like all gifted poets, Louis Daniel Brodsky is a master of observation and language, a prophet of metaphor, and a scientist who distills worlds of truth into a single page. But three things set Brodsky's poetry apart: his work is joyful, grateful, life-affirming, and creation-loving, brightening the life of the reader; his poems contain such surprises, such unexpected conclusions, that they feel like short stories; his poems, like the best historiography, teach well because they don’t aim to teach, rather play show-and-tell with the truth and quietly invite us to lay hold of it.
— Dan Doriani, Senior Pastor of Central Presbyterian Church (St. Louis, MO) and author of The Life of a God-Made Man and The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple
We all need anchors to hold us steady in the rushing and uncertain currents of time. For many, that anchor is a place, and for Louis Daniel Brodsky, that place is Lake Nebagamon, in northern Wisconsin. In At Shore's Border, the third volume in the Nebagamon series, Brodsky once again enthralls the reader, with vivid wordscapes of woods, water, and sky, made more enticing and meaningful through their juxtapositions with the demands and stresses of ordinary life. To read these magnificent poems is to escape the frenzy of city streets, slough off your shoes and cares, lounge on the dock or hike the paths, and rediscover your soul, by gazing deep into the very heart of the cosmos.
— Robert Hamblin, author of From the Ground Up: Poems of One Southerner's Passage to Adulthood, Keeping Score: Sports Poems for Every Season, and Crossroads: Poems of a Mississippi Childhood
The most striking dimension of the poems is the easy-going narrative voice itself. This voice reminds me of dimensions of Whitman (syntactically, prose-rhythms), Thoreau (immersion in a discrete natural setting as an entire physical universe), and Emerson (the emotional stance of rapture, awakening, communion: the primary feelings).
There is, in addition, the play of memory, especially in the last section of poems. You risk a syntactic familiarity that sometimes seems indistinguishable from ordinary prose syntax — especially with the serial-like lists of flora and fauna — and you rise as well into poetic flight.
In some ways, at least for me, the more troubled poems (and these are few) are the more resonant ones: poems that wonder about nature's response, poems that intimate the final disappearance. (That this lake is at once the setting of your childhood and your autumnal moment adds to the thematics of time — of return with a difference.)
Wistfulness is a lovely effect here as well. Another fine effect, more central to the volume is the Whitmanesque directness of address: I do feel talked to directly. Ecstasy and rapture are enormously difficult states to write (even as they are effortless to feel): that's a risk wrought into the entire undertaking.
— Philip M. Weinstein, author of Becoming Faulkner: The Art and Life of William Faulkner and Unknowing: The Work of Modernist Fiction
To read an article written about the Lake Nebagamon Trilogy, please click here.