William Bronk

Once, a few years ago, I was sat outside a London pub having a beer with a friend.

Across the road was a big secondhand bookshop.

After a while I wandered over and had a browse.

In the poetry section I found a collection by William Bronk. I’d never heard of him but the description on the back, and a quick glance inside, was enough to convince me to buy it.

Later, having put the book on my shelf and largely forgotten about it, I read an obituary of Bronk in an English newspaper which described him as a kind of solitary figure prone to wandering around New York seeking inspiration.

At least, that’s what I think I read. At the time I was very into the idea of solitary genius poets.

Anyway, here is one of his poems:

What we are

What we are? We say we want to become
what we are or what we have an intent to be.
We read the possibilities, or try.
We get to some. We think we know how to read.
We recognize a word, here and there,
a syllable: male, it says perhaps,
or female, talent — look what you could do

or love, it says, love is what we mean.
Being at any cost: in the end, the cost
is terrible but so is the lure to us.
We see it move and shine and swallow it.
We say we are and this is what we are
as to say we should be and this is what to be
and this is how. But, oh, it isn’t so.


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