Olga Broumas Charles Berger - Essay

Charles Berger

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Broumas'] poems, as everyone will remark, are frankly homo-erotic. I would also add that they are innocently erotic, amazingly unshadowed by guilt, remorse, or even by loss. The innocence comes from her sense of wonder in the presence of her lovers, her women…. Broumas watches and watches other women. This is especially clear in the … opening sequence [of Beginning with O], a group of lyrics entitled "Twelve Versions of God." "Twelve Versions" was written in conjunction with a series of paintings by Sandra McKee. The gods are goddesses, Greek goddesses, and for each one, Broumas (and McKee) have used ordinary women as models, have imagined contemporary equivalents for the classical and pre-classical myths. The sequence works brilliantly. The close of "Circe" is a gem, tough and witty, as Broumas pictures herself in her skirt of wine, walking past a construction site, turning men into swine.

Broumas writes with great clarity, with great natural feeling for how lines must begin and end. Her poetry is both compressed and clear, tied to the seen thing but also sharing and communicative. There is an element of chantlike stasis to the movement of some of her lines, a reciprocity between speaker and audience: "One would know nothing. / One would begin by the touch / return to her body / one would forget …" Not surprisingly, sometimes the lines grow overly taut and then the reader wishes that Broumas would open up a little more, grow more discursive, talk. But she has a strong sense of craft, not to mention of subject matter, and she will do as she must. (p. 18)

Charles Berger, in New Boston Review (copyright 1978 by Boston Critic, Inc.), Summer, 1978.