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04 April 2008 @ 12:44 pm
Louise Glück  
    
Louise Elisabeth Glück was born April 22, 1943 in  New York City.  She attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University.

She has received numerous awards and accolades for her books of poetry (some of which I've listed below).  On Aug 28, 2003,
Glück was named the Poet Laureate for the Library of Congress.  She taught at Williams College for a two decades and is now the "writer in residence" and teaches at Yale.  In 2001 Yale also awarded her the Bollingen Prize in Poetry.

A
contemporary Jewish-American author, there is not much available on the web about Glück's personal life. There is though much that can be gleaned from her work, if one chooses to read it that way.  Much of Glück's work focuses on topics that could be considered autobiographical, but she resists that label.  To her, it is not imperative that the reader see every detail that inspired the poem, but the result.  For example, in "Siren", she talks about being the "other woman" and while the main theme may correlate with her life, the specific details and reading of it are not as important.

Her stanzas and line length are rarely consistent, and cover a whole range (some lines are a single word, other times they are the full page length) and stanza also are not normally consistent even within the same poem.


Glück's work is known for her mastery and control of language, as well as integration of meter and rhyme.  Her topics range from mythical to biblical to historical to fairy tales.  The tone of much of her work, especially in the beginning, is a bit angry.  Much of her language though is not flowery or overwrought.  Here's a link to an interesting text where Glück argues for the use of simple language in poetry.

Read more about her here
Louise Gluck

List of Glück's poetry books (with a description of some)

Firstborn (1968)
Published when she was 25, it focuses on the themes of child-bearing and language.
The House on Marshland (1975)
The Garden
(1976)
Descending Figure
(1980)
The Triumph of Achilles
(1985)
Won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry
Ararat (1990)
Won the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry

The Wild Iris (1992)
Won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award
The First Four Books of Poems (1995)
Meadowlands
(1997)
Deals with the dissolution of marriage, and contains a lot of aspects of the Odyssey
Vita Nova (1999)
Won the Boston Book Review's Bingham Poetry Prize and The New Yorker's Book Award in poetry
The Seven Ages (2001)
Averno
(2006)
A finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry in 2006

Selected poems

Marathon
(Part 9)

I was not meant to hear
the two of them talking.
But I could feel the light of the torch
stop trembling, as though it had been
set on a table. I was not to hear
the one say to the other
how best to arouse me,
with what words, what gestures,
nor to hear the description of my body,
how it responded, what
it would not do. My back was turned.
I studied the voices, soon distinguishing
the first, which was deeper, closer,
from that of the replacement.
For all I know, this happens
every night: somebody waking me, then
the first teaching the second.
What happens afterward
occurs far from the world, at a depth
where only the dream matters
and the bond with any one soul
is meaningless; you throw it away.


Listen to Glück
read Marathon [I hope this works for you, I was having trouble with the link])


From the House on the Marshland

The Pond

Night covers the pond with its wing.
Under the ringed moon I can make out
your face swimming among minnows and the small
echoing stars. In the night air
the surface of the pond is metal.

Within, your eyes are open. They contain
a memory I recognize, as though
we had been children together. Our ponies
grazed on the hill, they were gray
with white markings. Now they graze
with the dead who wait
like children under their granite breastplates,
lucid and helpless:

The hills are far away. They rise up
blacker than childhood.
What do you think of, lying so quietly
by the water? When you look that way I want
to touch you, but do not, seeing
as in another life we were of the same blood.



From Descending Figure

The Fear of Burial

In the empty field, in the morning,
the body waits to be claimed.
The spirit sits beside it, on a small rock--
nothing comes to give it form again.

Think of the body's loneliness.
At night pacing the sheared field,
its shadow buckled tightly around.
Such a long journey.

And already the remote, trembling lights of the village
not pausing for it as they scan the rows.
How far away they seem,
the wooden doors, the bread and milk
laid like weights on the table



From The Wild Iris

The Wild Iris

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure sea water.

 

The Red Poppy

The great thing
is not having
a mind. Feelings:
oh, I have those; they
govern me. I have
a lord in heaven
called the sun, and open
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters,
were you like me once, long ago,
before you were human? Did you
permit yourselves
to open once, who would never
open again? Because in truth
I am speaking now
the way you do. I speak
because I am shattered. 

Listen to Glück read The Red Poppy


From Meadowlands

Circe's Torment

I regret bitterly
The years of loving you in both
Your presence and absence, regret
The law, the vocation
That forbid me to keep you, the sea
A sheet of glass, the sun-bleached
Beauty of the Greek ships: how
Could I have power if
I had no wish
To transform you: as
You loved my body,
As you found there
Passion we held above
All other gifts, in that single moment
Over honor and hope, over
Loyalty, in the name of that bond
I refuse you
Such feeling for your wife
As will let you
Rest with her, I refuse you
Sleep again
If I cannot have you. 




From Averno
(The book has two versions of Persephone's tale, this is the first)

Persephone the Wanderer

In the first version, Persephone
is taken from her mother
and the goddess of the earth
punishes the earth — this is
consistent with what we know of human behavior,

that human beings take profound satisfaction
in doing harm, particularly
unconscious harm:

we may call this
negative creation.

Persephone's initial
sojourn in hell continues to be
pawed over by scholars who dispute
the sensations of the virgin:

did she cooperate in her rape,
or was she drugged, violated against her will,
as happens so often now to modern girls.

As is well known, the return of the beloved
does not correct
the loss of the beloved: Persephone

returns home
stained with red juice like
a character in Hawthorne —

I am not certain I will
keep this word: is earth
"home" to Persephone? Is she at home, conceivably,
in the bed of the god? Is she
at home nowhere? Is she
a born wanderer, in other words
an existential
replica of her own mother, less
hamstrung by ideas of causality?

You are allowed to like
no one, you know. The characters
are not people.
They are aspects of a dilemma or conflict.

Three parts: just as the soul is divided,
ego, superego, id. Likewise

the three levels of the known world,
a kind of diagram that separates
heaven from earth from hell.

You must ask yourself:
where is it snowing?

White of forgetfulness,
of desecration —

It is snowing on earth; the cold wind says

Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn't know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.

She is lying in the bed of Hades.
What is in her mind?
Is she afraid? Has something
blotted out the idea
of mind?

She does know the earth
is run by mothers, this much
is certain. She also knows
she is not what is called
a girl any longer. Regarding
incarceration, she believes

she has been a prisoner since she has been a daughter.

The terrible reunions in store for her
will take up the rest of her life.
When the passion for expiation
is chronic, fierce, you do not choose
the way you live. You do not live;
you are not allowed to die.

You drift between earth and death
which seem, finally,
strangely alike. Scholars tell us

that there is no point in knowing what you want
when the forces contending over you
could kill you.

White of forgetfulness,
white of safety —

They say
there is a rift in the human soul
which was not constructed to belong
entirely to life. Earth

asks us to deny this rift, a threat
disguised as suggestion —
as we have seen
in the tale of Persephone
which should be read

as an argument between the mother and the lover —
the daughter is just meat.

When death confronts her, she has never seen
the meadow without the daisies.
Suddenly she is no longer
singing her maidenly songs
about her mother's
beauty and fecundity. Where
the rift is, the break is.

Song of the earth,
song of the mythic vision of eternal life —

My soul
shattered with the strain
of trying to belong to earth —

What will you do,
when it is your turn in the field with the god?



Myth of Innocence

One summer she goes into the field as usual
stopping for a bit at the pool where she often
looks at herself, to see
if she detects any changes. She sees
the same person, the horrible mantle
of daughterliness still clinging to her.

The sun seems, in the water, very close.
That's my uncle spying again, she thinks—
everything in nature is in some way her relative.
I am never alone, she thinks,
turning the thought into a prayer.
Then death appears, like the answer to a prayer.

No one understands anymore
how beautiful he was. But Persephone remembers.
Also that he embraced her, right there,
with her uncle watching. She remembers
sunlight flashing on his bare arms.

This is the last moment she remembers clearly.
Then the dark god bore her away.

She also remembers, less clearly,
the chilling insight that from this moment
she couldn't live without him again.

The girl who disappears from the pool
will never return. A woman will return,
looking for the girl she was.

She stands by the pool saying, from time to time,
I was abducted, but it sounds
wrong to her, nothing like what she felt.
Then she says, I was not abducted.
Then she says, I offered myself, I wanted
to escape my body. Even, sometimes,
I willed this. But ignorance

cannot will knowledge. Ignorance
wills something imagined, which it believes exists.

All the different nouns—
she says them in rotation.
Death, husband, god, stranger.
Everything sounds so simple, so conventional.
I must have been, she thinks, a simple girl.

She can't remember herself as that person
but she keeps thinking the pool will remember
and explain to her the meaning of her prayer
so she can understand
whether it was answered or not.


Listen to Glück read Myth of Innocence


Links to recent Gluck poems published in Poetry Magazine in February 2008, entitled
Midsummer and
Dawn

A link to a very recent poem published March 31, 2008 in the New Yorker, entitled
March