I once overheard someone say that no one ever talks about Louise GlÃ¼ck’s humor, which alarmed me so much that for a while afterwards I was random enough to myself, ” It is because she is not. âGlÃ¼ck’s intensity disgusted me when I first encountered his work, as a student – think of the stern insistence of ‘Mock Orange.’ At the time, I was drawn to playfulness, irreverence, anti-poetry. Now that I’m older, that I have suffered more and that I realize that my life is probably more than half over, it’s his seriousness, his coldness , which attract me. Some days, and in the dark intervals between days, it seems to me that GlÃ¼ck’s preoccupations are what poetry is for, that poems are confrontations with emptiness. If we are on a conveyor belt approaching emptiness, we can ignore it, avoid thought, for a while. And death is serious – “there is no such thing as miniature death,” she writes.
During a long career – 13 independent volumes since 1968 – GlÃ¼ck has become a true poet of the void. Loss was already present (being almost ubiquitous in poetry), but his fifth book, “Ararat” (1990), written after his father’s death, is where death comes in as a major theme. In âTerminal Resemblanceâ, the speaker writes that her reluctant father becomes talkative at the end: âwhen a man dies, / he has a subjectâ. (GlÃ¼ck’s work is not without humor, but humor tends to come in as cold or even cruel irony – “I prayed for the relief of suffering; I received suffering. / Who can say that my prayers have not been heard? “Ha ha.) In” The Wild Iris “(1992), GlÃ¼ck imagines a garden as a choir of souls. In the title poem, the perennial flower speaks of resurrection:” what you call death / I remember.â¦ It is terrible to survive / as a consciousness / buried in the dark earth. The seasons and the revival take more and more importance, as in the first poem of “Vita Nova” (1999):, it always wants to be tender. Things always come back, in the cyclical time of these poems, but have changed: “when hope was given to me / it was a whole other hope . “
“Averno”, published in 2006, takes its name from a real lake of mythical importance: the ancient Romans believed that it was the entrance to hell, or the other world as it is sometimes called. . In my opinion, this is GlÃ¼ck’s masterpiece, the book in which she goes to the edge of the void. In âOctoberâ she writes: âSummer after summer is over, / balm after violence: / it doesn’t do me any good / to be kind to me now; / Violence changed me. Her voice in these poems is dazzlingly cold, palpitating, like the coldness of the nights we call scintillating. Or the coldness that falls in a total eclipse, as if God had revoked the light of the sun. âI know what I’m seeing; sun that could be / the August sun, returning / all that was taken awayâ / Do you hear that voice? It is the voice of my mind; / you can’t touch my body now. The voice of a soul between the worlds. In âEchoesâ she writes: âIn the old days I could imagine my soul / I could imagine my death. / When I imagined my death / my soul died. This / I remember it clearly. The title poem takes human mortality directly into account: “I wake up thinking / you have to prepare. “The speaker’s children reject her, but for her they are fools:” They live in a dream, and I am preparing / to be a ghost.
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I’m interested in the change that occurs for some poets at the end of their careers, when the seasons to come must seem terribly, countlessly over. Rather than urgency, the brevity of the bridge induces calm. Charles Wright, after many books of long poems with long, elongated lines, became less prolific, turning to a six-line form. He said in an interview in 2014 that if social media was leading poets to write shorter poems, âThat’s really good, because that’s what you should be doing: keep your mouth half shut. Silence has featured prominently in GlÃ¼ck’s work for decades. A sample of his silences: âThe soul is silent. / If it speaks at all / it speaks in dreams. âI only spoke to the angels. How lucky my days, / how busy and meaningful the continuous silence of the nights. âRegarding death, one could observe / that those who have authority to speak remain silent. “My breath was white, a description of silence.” âI am / at work, even though I am silent. “