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The single great constant in the poetry of William Bronk is desire; specifically, desire for the world, which can never be known as a totality. Despite the self-limiting fact that consciousness is aware of its inability to experience this totality, it continually struggles for the achievement of its goal. Cut off from any ground of belief, secure only in its desire, consciousness therefore creates a world, which despite its insufficiency in metaphysical terms nevertheless allows for the rendering of form--the poem. Within the limits of their self-created worlds, Bronk's poems unfold as a phenomenology of desire, and this is why, when they are read as a single body of work, they echo each other so hauntingly that they seem like endless variations on the same theme. Bronk's poems actually move through wide registers of emotion emerging from many essential human situations. But these are all abstracted into a kind of intellectual music, sensuous in its meditative complexity and at times overwhelming in the force of its rhetoric. Regardless of their "subjects," however, almost all the poems embody that philosophical moment adumbrated in the last stanza of "At Tikal," the final poem in Bronk's first published volume, Light and Dark (1955):

It is always hard like this, not having a world, to imagine one, to go to the far edge apart and imagine, to wall whether in or out, to build a kind of cage for the sake of feeling the bars around us, to give shape to a world. And oh, it is always a world and not the world.


From "William Bronk: The World as Desire." Contemporary Literature 23.4 (Fall 1992): 480-492.