Bronk, William 1918–
Bronk is an American poet and essayist concerned with the themes of time, space, and the nature of reality. With a pared-down simplicity of line and an often imageless clarity, he creates a poetry of place, a poetry of statement. Often meditative and experimental, his work has been compared to Wallace Stevens's in its use of form and recurring motif.
Robert D. Spector
More than most collections of poetry, William Bronk's The World, the Worldless … possesses an unbroken thematic unity. Existential anguish links poem to poem, so that lines from one might easily be coupled with those of another. It is not, however, a poetry of despair, for it begins with an acceptance of the fact that "We are here. We are here," and it recognizes our need "to make / a world for survival …," since "One is nothing with no world." But Bronk will not settle for man's comfortable, conventional falsities and pretenses. For religious orthodoxy and promises of salvation he holds no hope: "Nothing is coming but what is already here"; and yet, for all the uncertainties of human existence, there is one truth: "we are, somehow we are." Whether or not we find satisfaction in Bronk's philosophy, his poetry of statement impresses with its clarity and precision of language; it manages to make metaphysics a subject of human emotion rather than a grand abstraction. (p. 47-8)
Robert D. Spector, in Saturday Review (© 1965 by Saturday Review, Inc.; reprinted with permission), February 13, 1965.
(The entire section is 179 words.)
["The New World" is a collection of] essay-meditations on the architecture and algebra of space and time of the Incan and Mayan religious temples at Machu Picchu, Tikal, Copan, Palenque,… by one of our finest—though largely uncelebrated—poets. Lucid, precise, abstract, capable of infinitely slow movement and graceful, careful observation, the prose here is of a high order of excellence, a celebration of mystery and wonder, but human in its scale and its syntactical arrangements. It permits an excursion into the mysteries of Time and Space and Numbers….
In all his poems as well as here, Bronk's sensitivity is generated through his contemplation of architecture and habitation, by the details of a grand concept as well as the space it encloses. It's as if he has found and written, always vitally aware of the relationship between the sashes and beams and lintelings of his mill life and the seemingly more obdurate ideas in stone of the May an craftsmen. One of his finest early poems in the collection "The World, the Worldless" … considers his grand Victorian Hudson Valley town mansion….
Every new volume of his poems is engraved with terse statement, a high seriousness and strong uncluttered feeling. With each new volume he seems to be determined to make his utterance all the more specific, determined and quiet, as if he wrote his poems in the voice and with the mind in which we all truly sometimes think,...
(The entire section is 631 words.)
William Bronk writes about time and space; he writes about motion, the "motion" of interrelationships: people, places, objects, ideas. Like Wallace Stevens, a poet whom he resembles in some respects, he writes about the mind's motion, the processes of cognition. And he writes about these matters over and over again…. Like most major talents he holds on to a few ideas, and makes of them, over the years, his "quarrel with himself." (p. 222)
Over the years Bronk's diction has become sparer, his forms both more experimental and more crabbed—he is now writing quatrains and tercets—but the deft syntax, the mastery of "pause" and effect, the easy amplitude of statement, rarely too much or too little, and the refusal to yield imagery over to discourse …, are evidences of this ruminative poet's unvarying stance. Bronk is remarkably even, and remarkably urgent. Our poet is a poet of argument.
Bronk's concern, as that of Stevens, is for reality. In Bronk's case, however, and it is an inevitable distinction, the attention is for the actual physis of metaphysics…. Fictions and tentative orders are not so much contemplated as they are assailed. The result is not an act of imagination as will, but—in language that seems to do its own thinking, bare, hesitant, probing—a finally resolute recognition of, and concession to, Mystery…. Bronk does not pray …, but his surrender, in poem after poem—"On Credo Ut...
(The entire section is 2024 words.)
In "Light and Dark,"… William Bronk's first book of poems,… some anxious children in a car ask, "Where are we now?", to which the poem's narrator replies, "Pretty soon, pretty soon," suggesting that the answers we would like to hear are not always there. The narrator goes on, in this poem entitled "Some Musicians Play Chamber Music for Us," to instruct us that the worlds we seem to share are created worlds; like pieces of music, they are "composed, oh wholly and well composed." The tone is muted, the language spare, unable to alleviate either curiosity or uncertainty, yet the voice compels, even consoles; it is a strangely humane whistle in the dark.
Such an effect pervades the entire corpus of Bronk's poems and essays, for Bronk's is a poetry of the epistemological limit, a message formulated by a border guard on the outer reaches of our shared assumptions. The natural world, Bronk would insist, is a world we can never know; it is, as he notes in "My Father Photographed With Friends," another early collection, the "stuff of stubborn stuff // indifferent to what we do / or fail to do."
Against this recalcitrance, Bronk has fashioned a remarkable body of work, one which suggests that the recognition, the taking in of this fundamental estrangement, illuminates and clarifies the human situation. To make clear such an understanding, Bronk employs, with great tact, a language of logic and paradox, a language which...
(The entire section is 779 words.)