B.L. Bruce is a pseudonym for California poet Bri Bruce. Her newest poetry collection, Measures, by turns elicits tenderness and melancholy, hopefulness and heartbreak—which is to say, the gamut of the human condition.
Measures includes 58, mostly free verse poems with occasional haiku. Imagery from the natural world is often employed to further its themes.
“Dusk,” for example, takes its cues from nature as the poet conjuring a landscape and time of day with colors, textures, and scents, creating a multi-layered sensory experience: “…soot-colored/ shearwaters blurring the horizon,/ the briny air of slack tide/ on up-canyon wind,/ the parading hours of dusk/ in which you whisper, slowly,/ the voice that yields me/ as though I am clay.” The diction is precise and elegant, employing alliteration and consonance throughout, while gradually drawing readers into a glimpse of the relationship of the speaker (“I”) with a particular “you.” This relationship gains emotional depth from being depicted in context of the physical landscape and arrival of day’s end.
Many of Bruce’s images linger in the mind while also provoking strong emotion: “the rouge I smear/across my lips/when wrought/ with need”; “Dying oak/ veiled/ in moss”; “Twice this morning I stopped to listen: geese bellowing, gliding inland/ toward the marsh.”
Some pieces are less effective. For example, several statement poems are pure exposition, lacking the visceral impact of poems that set a scene while describing luminous particulars of the world. In “Decision,” for example, Bruce writes: “Surely, by now, you see/ that your indecisiveness/ was a worse fate than/ making the wrong decision.” “Destroy Me” presents a similar issue: “I gave you the power/ to destroy me, but/ trusted you not to.” Embedded within larger poems of greater sensory appeal, such brief statements would likely grow in their significance, but as free-standing poems, they fail to clear the high bar Bruce has set in her other offerings.
Nonetheless, Bruce’s collection offers many accomplished and memorable moments, reflecting great potential for reaching a wide poetry-reading audience.