Vectors and Smoothable Curves (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
The winner in 1982 of the American Book Award for Poetry, William Bronk now presents his collected essays. His subjects in this volume range widely. In a series of essays entitled “The New World,” Bronk meditates on the legacies of the Mayan and Incan civilizations in the ruins of Machu Picchu, Tikal, Palenque, and Copan; in “A Partial Glossary,” he turns more abstract and philosophical as he considers ontological and epistemological implications of metaphor and costume, desire and denial; finally, in the long series of essays called “The Brother in Elysium,” Bronk sketches the social struggles, artistic goals, and aesthetic triumphs of Thoreau, Whitman, and Melville.
Bronk’s essays in “The New World” exemplify his philosophical reverence for ontological mystery. In “An Algebra Among Cats,” he initially contrasts the cultural values of the high-altitude Indians of the New World to those of the conquering Spaniards. The former found their security not only in the acceptance of ultimate mystery but also in its total worship. The Spanish found security in gold.
As Bronk meditates on the ruins of Machu Picchu, he is overwhelmed by the “special reverence for the site itself.” Worship of abstract mystery perhaps is not so impressive, however, as the architectural embodiments of this worship—the aesthetic statement made by the understated harmony of site and stone. The temple, in short, transcends time as a work of art, as...
(The entire section is 1897 words.)
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