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The End of Travel

by Julie Bruck

Poet Julie Bruck is a former Montrealer now living in San Francisco. This second collection is distinguished by a gentle touch that leavens the dark landscape of her poetry. Bruck charts the everyday, urban world of family, friends, neighbours, and acquaintances. The characters in her poems are fragile and vulnerable – as is the narrator – to disease and neglect. Bruck’s poems assert the randomness of life, sensed most keenly in poems that limn lives shaped by illness.

The first poem announces Bruck’s understanding of physical pain, tempered by love alone. Here, while lovemaking, a lover patiently waits for his partner’s “hollow coughing fit” to pass. The speaker celebrates the love that unites the couple in the face of disease. But knowledge of disease quickly “sears the air” when the speaker learns that a loved one will “need two / strong men to lift him soon, / from his bed to a chair in the light.” Kate’s Dress – a sequence of poems that describe a friend’s death from cancer – forms the heart of this volume. The swift passage from diagnosis to death is rendered with frightening accuracy. Spare imagery and telling detail evoke Kate’s descent into a drug-induced stupor meant to stave off pain. Her death leads to a deep sense of loss as the speaker laments the seemingly arbitrary hand that has claimed other friends and family members.

I don’t mean to suggest that Bruck’s world is altogether dark. On the contrary, she affirms her faith in small things – a red dress, a ripe nectarine – and, in so doing, offers readers a simple grace. I am struck, too, by her powerful evocation of Montreal, its tree-lined neighbourhoods and rich mix of people. Although Montreal shows grey in contrast to California’s colours, Bruck’s love for her native city is felt throughout this collection. I can’t help but feel her departure from Montreal as a loss.


Reviewer: Ruth Panofsky

Publisher: Brick Books


Price: $14

Page Count: 80 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 1-894078-04-7

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 1999-11

Categories: Poetry