In Memoriam, Lucie Brock-Broido (1956 - 2018)

Kristina Tate
March 17, 2018

It is with great sadness that we share the passing of our beloved Lucie Brock-Broido. As Professor and Director of the Poetry concentration, Lucie was a brilliant guide for generations of students, an esteemed member of the Writing faculty, and a beautiful presence in all of our lives. Lucie died of natural causes Tuesday night at home in the presence of family and friends.

Portrait of the poet, looks like a painting, a white woman with long thick blond hair.

Lucie received her BA and her MA from Johns Hopkins University, and her MFA from the School of the Arts. Her book Stay, Illusion, was a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Her previous collections of poetry include Trouble in Mind (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), recipient of the Massachusetts Book Award; The Master Letters (1995); and A Hunger (1988). In 2008, she edited and published Letters to a Stranger, Poems by Thomas James with Graywolf Press. Her many awards and honors include the Witter Bynner prize for poetry from the Academy of American Arts and Letters, the Harvard Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award, the Harvard-Danforth Award for Distinction in Teaching, the Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from The American Poetry Review, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2013, she was given the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching.

The New York Times recently announced Lucie's passing in a piece by Richard Sandomir. "Lucie Brock-Broido, whose poetry glistened with embellished, inventive language about her life, beauty, art and real-world people, like a baby who famously fell into a well, died on Tuesday at her home in Cambridge, Mass. She was 61."

In a review in The New Yorker in 2013, the poet and critic Dan Chiasson praised Lucie's poems for their “frolicsome gravity,” and said that while some baffled him, “their stylish spookiness (some combination of Poe and Stevie Nicks)” ensured that they were not boring.

In an interview with alumnus Ricardo Maldonado '08 for Guernica, Lucie said, "I have made several vows in my life and I’ve never broken one yet. The first one, which I made when I was six, was that I would be a teacher."

We are so thankful that vow led her to Columbia. She will be deeply missed.

We invite you to share memories of Lucie by emailing [email protected] or tweeting @ColumbiaSOA.

I am Lucie's neighbor in Cambridge and I visited with her in February. She told me that she regretted not having the opportunity to say good bye to her students - she so loved teaching and her students. She had thought about a trip to NY but wanted all to remember her as she was. Please know that she was thinking about you. - Deneen Crosby

Lucie and I were classmates in the Columbia MFA program. I remember her working closely on each line in every poem. Sometimes the words flowed, sometimes they were labored over. Lucie gave thoughtful and generous feedback. She was a fine poet and will be missed. - Mari Alschuler, Poetry MFA ‘82

I was saddened to learn of Lucie’s passing. Her bejeweled poems executed with surgical precision resonated deeply with me. I had the great opportunity to study with her in a workshop held at Skidmore College in 2004 and participate for a short time in “Lucie’s A-Lonelies”. Too brief, her time. She will be missed. - Ms Raphael Faith Moser

A haiku for Lucie (may she rest in peace) by Rita Mercedes

In the cold night air

sharp and icy stars reckon


I'm grateful for her poems, which always challenge me to look for connection and meaning well beyond my comfort zone, while at the same time delighting and amazing me with their array of stark images, juxtaposed feelings, and linguistic surprises. I will never have a chance to study with her now, but I can always look to her work and learn something new about poetry, and about myself. What a gift to leave in this world!

My only direct interaction with her was during the December 2017 online poetry MFA Q&A. Due to a technical difficulty with my chatroom window, I ended up speaking with her and Dorothea Lasky directly by voice in the meeting. It was surprising and terrifying for me, but Ms. Brock-Broido's warm, joyful, and joking nature was wonderfully welcoming and encouraging. I knew then that, even if I were not admitted this year, she was exactly what I had been hoping to find in a poetry faculty: the essence of support, humanity, and love. In those brief 3 minutes of contact, I felt touched by a great and good human being, by someone who wanted to foster those qualities in others. Again: what a gift to give this world.

My condolences to the Columbia faculty and staff, her family, and her friends.

With gratitude and sadness, - Gordon Smith

All I can say is that I am devastated.

I wasn’t just Lucie’s web designer, I was her ‘carrier of feathers’.  We met and fell into the deepest friendship. She said I was her ‘feather’. She shared with me, her beautiful mind, her lyrical words. She has forever changed my life and I will never forget her.

If anyone has any ideas on adding anything to her website, please contact me. As for the upkeep, I plan to never let her website expire.

Thank you. - Nikki Terry

I have so many, but as I was discussing with Adriana, Lucie was so, so funny. Over the course of knowing her, she told me no less than three excellent fart jokes. Once, in a thesis workshop in her home, I left to go to the bathroom. When I came back, she had left a fart machine in my chair and let it rip! We were rolling on the floor in laughter before too long.

I miss how she impressed upon me the importance of kindness.

I’ll probably email again later. Thanks for the opportunity.

In the minutes before I found out she had died, a bolt of lightening lit up the snowstorm. I didn’t ever really think she would die. - Claire Sibley '16

Another memory of Lucie--

She came one day complaining of a water sage in her apartment: the water was coming out all rust. The building manager had not fixed it for days. She was afraid to wash her hair in it. Whenever she was being both sincere and funny at the same time like that, her eyes would get big and her mouth would get small. - Claire Sibley '16