After: Poems

Paul Dry Books, 82 pages (Philadelphia, 2024)

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The title of Geoffrey Brock’s third poetry collection, After, works in two ways. Many of the poems were written after, and in response to, the death of Brock’s father, who was also a poet. And many are in some way “after”—as in, in the manner of—other poems or works of art. Such texts, often called “versions” or “imitations,” have long been seen as, in Samuel Johnson’s words, “a kind of middle composition between translation and original design.”

Brock has been writing and translating poems for forty years, and for most of his career those two activities proceeded along parallel but distinct tracks. In recent years, however, he has been increasingly drawn to that middle space where the tracks converge. For Brock, it’s a conversational space, in which he listens to the call of earlier works and offers responses from his own life: by turns bleak and beautiful, poignant and funny, sorrowful and accepting. Poets owe debts to other poets as surely as each of us does to those who raised us, and After is a partial account of such personal and poetic inheritances.

“To read Geoffrey Brock’s After is to be in intimate conversation with poets he has loved––Pavese, Keats, Heaney (to name a few) and most importantly, the poet’s father, Van K. Brock. As such, these poems braid ‘some old-world air’ with ‘some brave new word.’ The poems in After crackle and burst, unfolding with quiet authority, with wind and wisdom, nodding both to formalism and the vernacular. Brock gives us an almanac of seeing (and yes, feeling) from the middle of a life––a testament of loss and wonder and going on by a poet whose ear is pitch-perfect and whose singular voice is measured, monumental––and not to be missed.” –Andrea Cohen, author of The Sorrow Apartments

“Although Geoff Brock’s new collection has much to say about aging and loss, the intricate variations he plays on these themes lend his poems an unexpectedly celebratory air—an air of joyous discovery. To weave together two of his indelible images, the evening that reaches for our ripening fingers is always brightened by ‘the old moon on its nightly walk, / the belled stars chiming faintly in their dark.’ Few poets working today are as inventive as Brock in their use of meter and rhyme, and none makes the demotic speech of our era feel quite so numinous. Like Frost before him, Brock has the power to make earthbound words take flight.” —Boris Dralyuk, author of My Hollywood and Other Poems

“When one is working at the highest realms of the imagination and poetic craft, there is a curious sense in which the activities of writing, translating, even reading, and editing, are less distinct than we might think, that they are rather modes of the human mind’s central creative enterprise. The poems in After reach these realms; over and over they evince that the highest poetic intelligence may not be originality but attentiveness and conversation. Long recognized as one of our finest translators, After is the book that will convince you that Geoffrey Brock is undoubtedly one of our finest poets as well. I will be reading and returning to these poems for the rest of my life.” —Jennifer Grotz, author of Still Falling

After is a work of expert design, allusion, and rigor at the blurred edges, a book that lays bare the betrayals and ‘gray sins’ of a grievous, fragile life. An unnervingly casual master of the line and image—a herd of cattle is ‘like ink in a bottle’; the Turin sky is ‘rinsed with milk, clear but not luminous’—Brock has a wry, lacerating self-awareness that reminds me of Edgar Bowers. This is an elegiac, elemental, exquisite book.” —Randall Mann, author of Deal: New and Selected Poems