The Complete Poems of Louis Daniel Brodsky: Volume One, 1963-1967
edited by Sheri L. Vandermolen
Wind beats the winter wheat. Cornstalks not two feet old Inflate rippled fields, Flap in the stippled breeze Like people clapping hands In a crowded coliseum. Cows turn their backs to the world. Sows leave off feed troughs To huddle against weathers That twist the swifts course, Knot a freight train’s whistle, And buckle the very air That bridges spoke-taut cities And these flat-out plains. Now rain paints war designs On the face of this plow-traced land. Furrows retreat like sandcastles Washed by a truculent sea. Autos creep wheel-deep in water. Traffic lights blink into sleep. Against one window of the restaurant Where we, just passing through, Have been forced to serve the storm, Debris etches a dance of death.
Use the player below to listen to Louis Daniel Brodsky read this poem.
As the initial volume of an impressive series comprising the full collection of verse by Louis Daniel Brodsky, this book begins with Brodsky's first poem, written during his final months at Yale, in 1963, and traces the author's maturation into his apprentice years (when he was a young graduate student in English, at Washington University, in St. Louis), presenting the hundreds of poems, prose poems, and short, autobiographical prose works he had composed by June of 1967, when he launched his professional writing career.
These pieces serve not only as a measure of Brodsky's evolution as a poet but as a human being, chronicling one man's struggle to find his purpose in life, to make a place for himself in a society often at odds with his own convictions. His hopes, fears, and frustrations permeate the work, revealing the intense inner conflicts he felt compelled to set to paper, from individual matters — his indecision over vocational goals, his candid experiences with love and rejection, the overwhelming isolation inherent in his academic pursuits — to more global concerns, especially his acute awareness of the increasing social and political turbulence surrounding him.
By grappling with these issues in his writing, he explored passionate emotions, released tension, and, at times, resolved doubts evoked through his introspection. But more important, he used this outpouring to hone his creative skills and develop his personal and professional identity, ultimately creating this tangible record of his travail and his ecstasy, his certitude and his confusion, and, finally, his journey into the heart of the person he would never stop becoming — a poet.