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Collected Louise Gluck book cover

Better Know A Poet Laureate: Louise Glück

Louise Glück was one of the first poets to make a major impression on me. Hold on, it’s okay, I don’t get poetry either! This Better Know A Poet Laureate series is about not getting poetry very well, but trying anyway.

I read some of Louise's poems in an anthology and became a fan, eventually devouring her life’s work. One day on the University of South Carolina campus, I walked by a meeting room full of conversation and could not believe my eyes. Louise was talking to a group of students! A staff member noticed my slack-jawed expression and asked if I would like to join the masters-class students. Would I?!

Several students asked her intelligent, thoughtful questions. When my turn came, I asked about the meaning of her work and how she uses mythology. She told me not only that I was wrong, but that I had just asked the most tiresome question she runs into abroad. Ugh, one of my favorite poets told me I was reading her wrong! But that’s okay; every so often I reread her poetry and find new appreciation. What matters is that the words speak to me.

Each week, fellow poetry scholar Keith and I will post about a different US Poet Laureate. We held a fantasy draft to determine the blog post order, so expect plenty of rhyme but little reason to the order of our picks. In the meantime, here are several of Louise Glück’s works that you can check out and interpret your own way, as well as some links to The Poetry Foundation's profile of her work.


Poems 1962-2012 by Louise Glück
Amazon Says: It is the astonishment of Louise Glück’s poetry that it resists collection. With each successive book her drive to leave behind what came before has grown more fierce, the more...
Amazon Says: It is the astonishment of Louise Glück’s poetry that it resists collection. With each successive book her drive to leave behind what came before has grown more fierce, the force of her gaze fixed on what has yet to be imagined. She invented a form to accommodate this need, the book-length sequence of poems, like a landscape seen from above, a novel with lacunae opening onto the unspeakable. The reiterated yet endlessly transfigured elements in this landscape—Persephone, a copper beech, a mother and father and sister, a garden, a husband and son, a horse, a dog, a field on fire, a mountain—persistently emerge and reappear with the dark energy of the inevitable, shot through with the bright aspect of things new-made.               From the outset (“Come here / Come here, little one”), Gluck’s voice has addressed us with deceptive simplicity, the poems in lines so clear we “do not see the intervening fathoms.”  From within the earth’s bitter disgrace, coldness and barrenness my friend the moon rises: she is beautiful tonight, but when is she not beautiful? To read these books together is to understand the governing paradox of a life lived in the body and of the work wrested from it, the one fated to die and the other to endure. less...
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A Village Life: Poems by Louise Glück
Amazon Says: A Village Life, Louise Glück’s eleventh collection of poems, begins in the topography of a village, a Mediterranean world of no definite moment or place: All the roads in more...
Amazon Says: A Village Life, Louise Glück’s eleventh collection of poems, begins in the topography of a village, a Mediterranean world of no definite moment or place: All the roads in the village unite at the fountain.Avenue of Liberty, Avenue of the Acacia Trees—The fountain rises at the center of the plaza;on sunny days, rainbows in the piss of the cherub.—from “tributaries” Around the fountain are concentric circles of figures, organized by age and in degrees of distance: fields, a river, and, like the fountain’s opposite, a mountain. Human time superimposed on geologic time, all taken in at a glance, without any undue sensation of speed. Glück has been known as a lyrical and dramatic poet; since Ararat, she has shaped her austere intensities into book-length sequences. Here, for the first time, she speaks as “the type of describing, supervising intelligence found in novels rather than poetry,” as Langdon Hammer has written of her long lines—expansive, fluent, and full—manifesting a calm omniscience. While Glück’s manner is novelistic, she focuses not on action but on pauses and intervals, moments of suspension (rather than suspense), in a dreamlike present tense in which poetic speculation and reflection are possible. less...
Amazon


Averno: Poems by Louise Glück
Amazon Says: Averno is a small crater lake in southern , regarded by the ancient Romans as the entrance to the underworld. That place gives its name to Louise Glück’s eleventh collectio more...
Amazon Says: Averno is a small crater lake in southern , regarded by the ancient Romans as the entrance to the underworld. That place gives its name to Louise Glück’s eleventh collection: in a landscape turned irretrievably to winter, it is the only source of heat and light, a gate or passageway that invites traffic between worlds while at the same time opposing their reconciliation. Averno is an extended lamentation, its long, restless poems no less spellbinding for being without plot or hope, no less ravishing for being savage, grief-stricken. What Averno provides is not a map to a point of arrival or departure, but a diagram of where we are, the harrowing, enduring presence.Averno is a 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Poetry. less...
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The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck
Amazon Says: This collection of stunningly beautiful poems encompasses the natural, human, and spiritual realms, and is bound together by the universal themes of time and mortality. With c more...
Amazon Says: This collection of stunningly beautiful poems encompasses the natural, human, and spiritual realms, and is bound together by the universal themes of time and mortality. With clarity and sureness of craft, Gluck's poetry questions, explores, and finally celebrates the ordeal of being alive. less...
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Vita Nova: Poems by Louise Gluck
Amazon Says: Since Ararat in 1990, Louise Gluck has been exploring a form that is, according to poet Robert Hass, her invention. Vita Nova-- like its immediate predecessors, a booklength s more...
Amazon Says: Since Ararat in 1990, Louise Gluck has been exploring a form that is, according to poet Robert Hass, her invention. Vita Nova-- like its immediate predecessors, a booklength sequence -- combines the ecstatic utterance of The Wild Iris with the worldly dramas elaborated in Meadowlands. Vita Nova is a book that exists in the long moment of spring: a book of deaths and beginnings, resignation and hope; brutal, luminous, and farseeing. Like late Yeats, Vita Nova dares large statement. By turns stern interlocutor and ardent novitiate, Gluck compasses the essential human paradox. In Vita Nova, Louise Gluck manages the apparently impossible: a terrifying act of perspective that brings into resolution the smallest human hope and the vast forces that shape and thwart it. less...
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Meadowlands by Louise Gluck
Amazon Says: In an astonishing book-length sequence, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louise Gluck interweaves the dissolution of a contemporary marriage with the story of The Odyssey. Here is more...
Amazon Says: In an astonishing book-length sequence, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louise Gluck interweaves the dissolution of a contemporary marriage with the story of The Odyssey. Here is Penelope stubbornly weaving, elevating the act of waiting into an act of will; here, too, is a worldly Circe, a divided Odysseus, and a shrewd adolescent Telemachus. Through these classical figures, Meadowlands explores such timeless themes as the endless negotiation of family life, the cruelty that intimacy enables, and the frustrating trivia of the everyday. Gluck discovers in contemporary life the same quandary that lies at the heart of The Odyssey: the "unanswerable/affliction of the human heart: how to divide/the world's beauty into acceptable/and unacceptable loves." less...
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