The Poetry Society of America hosted a tribute to acclaimed poet Lucie Brock-Broido in collaboration with other poetry organizations this past Wednesday, inviting her friends and students to share their personal stories and favorite poems of hers.
Brock-Broido was the director of poetry in the writing program at the School of the Arts from 1993 to this past March, when she passed away. Her tribute was co-presented by the Poetry Society of America, the Academy of American Poets, Alfred A. Knopf, the Poetry Foundation, and Poets House.
“It is fair to say that no faculty has been more devoted, revered, and beloved than Lucie Brock-Broido. No one has cared more deeply, took the challenges of her students more seriously, or fought more valiantly on their behalf,” Carol Becker, the dean of the School of the Arts, said in her introduction. “We are so pleased to hold Lucie's tribute in [Dodge Hall] because we still sense her spirit here with us every day.”
Aside from teaching within the School of the Arts, Brock-Broido had also taught at Harvard University, Bennington College, and Princeton University. During her academic career, Brock-Broido received the Harvard-Danforth Award for Distinction in Teaching in 1991 and Columbia University’s Presidential Teaching Award in 2013.
Speaking at the event, Srikanth Reddy, a former student of Brock-Broido at Harvard, said “[She] was my first poetry teacher. I feel that she should be everyone's first poetry teacher… I remember Lucie's classroom felt like home for poetical misfits who didn't quite know where they belonged.”
Harmony Holiday, MFA ’13, reflected fondly on her classes with Brock-Broido.
“It's hard to call her a teacher because that almost seems–it's just not the right word, she was so much more than that—she was a mother figure, a sister figure,” Holiday said. “She was making the impossible happen in the world and holding a space where people could understand why they wanted to become poets.”
In addition to her former students, the tribute was attended by fellow contemporary writers, who mourned for the loss of their friend.
“[Brock-Broido] was the most original and singular person I have ever known,” said Robert Polito, former president of the Poetry Foundation. “She was singular in her friendships, her generosity… [and] she was above all singular in her writing, her work, and her poems.”
Dorothea Lasky, an associate professor of poetry in the School of the Arts and a peer of Brock-Broido, spoke about the eccentricities of her friend.
“She had close to a full obsession with red, adorning herself and all of her spaces with a particular brown tinted red, just like a blood moon,” Lasky said. “I wish she could have seen the moon this summer infused with her soul.”
Each speaker read a poem by Brock-Broido, primarily selecting works from her books “A Hunger,” “The Master Letters,” and “Trouble in Mind.” The tribute was ended with a recording of Brock-Broido reading her poem “Infinite Riches in the Smallest Room,” closing a somber evening of reflection on her life and work.