Glück, Louise (Vol. 160)
Louise Glück 1943-
(Full name Louise Elizabeth Glück) American poet and essayist.
The following entry presents an overview of Glück's career through 2001. For further information on her life and works, see CLC, Volumes 7, 22, 44, and 81.
Glück is an award-winning poet whose verse utilizes brevity and spareness, often incorporating archetypes and mythical characters into contemporary situations. Her poetry frequently employs elements from ancient myths as a tool to comment on and inform modern dilemmas. Though the use of myth dominates her later poetry, Glück is a versatile poet who consistently challenges her own forms and the genre of poetry as well. Glück was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for her collection Wild Iris (1992).
Glück was born in New York City on April 22, 1943, to a Wellesley-educated mother and a father who was a first-generation American businessman of Hungarian descent. As a teenager, Glück struggled with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, an experience that would later be reflected in her work. Due to the disorder, Glück's formal education was interrupted in her last year of high school when she began a seven-year course of psychoanalysis. She enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College in 1962, and later attended Columbia University from 1963 to 1968. At Columbia, she participated in a two-year poetry workshop with Dr. Léonie Adams. Glück went on to study for four years with renowned poet Stanley Kunitz, who became a long-term mentor and who had a profound influence on her work. She has taught at several universities including Columbia University at New York, the University of Iowa, University of California at Berkeley, and Brandeis University. In addition to her Pulitzer Prize, Glück has won a number of awards, including the Academy of American Poets Prize in 1967, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in 1985 for The Triumph of Achilles (1985), and the 1995 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction for Proofs and Theories (1994).
Glück's first poetry collection, Firstborn, was published in 1968, when she was twenty-five years old. The poems, which stylistically build on the works of the first confessional poets, explore the role of women in society, at times expressing negativity and even hostility toward women and womanhood in general. The structure of the poems—lines with few stresses and blatant declarations—parallels this sense of anger. The House on Marshland (1975) saw Glück distancing herself from the confessional mode and developing a more distinct poetic voice. This voice achieves a wider range in Descending Figure (1980), a collection that examines a variety of issues including anorexia and the desire to create poetry. This work continues to feature Glück's examination of common human themes through a deceptively simple language, but her use of extended poem sequences rather than individual lyrics allows her to sustain more complex emotional and intellectual engagement with her topics. For example, in Descending Figure's poem sequence “The Garden,” Glück painstakingly parallels her own individual experience with the Garden of Eden story from the Book of Genesis. The Triumph of Achilles, a collection of eight poetry sequences, reflects the more mature poetic sensibility that Glück developed in Descending Figure. She again employs classical myths and the Bible as thematic material, using them to provide the metaphorical basis of the poems rather than relying heavily on imagery to convey meaning. Achilles also demonstrates an expansion of Glück's poetic line; the resulting language is similar to common speech, but also reflects meticulous attention to such poetic concerns as rhythm, alliteration, repetition, off-rhyme, and lineation. The sparse verbiage of the collection combined with the sentence-like structure of her lines marks a stylistic break from her earlier works. In Ararat (1990), her first attempt at a book-length sequence, Glück addresses the death of her father and the implications that his death held for the other members of the family, including her mother and sister. These poems are set in Long Island, New York, and utilize a chant-like rhythm as they examine the subject of familial romance. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Wild Iris—a collection that was strongly influenced by poet Simone Weil—represents a turning point in Glück's career. With subtle references to the high modernists, Wild Iris boldly combines a dialogic poetic form with anthropomorphism. These poems, set among a lush garden, establish a range of individual voices for flowers, which alternate with the poet-gardener's voice and with the voice of a gardener-god. These elements combine to address the landscape of the poet-gardener's marriage and other issues related to her existence, using symbolism, multivocality, and dramatic personae to convey their themes. Proofs and Theories is a collection of essays that explores Glück's personal life, including her creative process and her writing methods. In addition, she also examines other poets including John Keats, John Milton, Wallace Stevens, and George Oppen. Glück returns to her focus on the mythological in Meadowlands (1996), where she rewrites the Odyssey myth by humanizing Odysseus and Penelope, paralleling their relationship with that of an ordinary contemporary couple. The poems appropriate archetypes in order to illuminate the collapse of a marriage. Using humor and irony, the collection proffers a grim view of romantic love's sustainability. With Vita Nova (1999), Glück constructs a mythic narrative about everlasting fidelity by rewriting the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Written after Glück's years as a wife and mother, the poems seek to reinterpret the Orpheus myth and, at the same time, make sense of Glück's newfound sense of solitude. The poems in Vita Nova, often compared with those in Meadowlands, focus on a single speaker who vocalizes different perspectives and explores human faithlessness. The Seven Ages (2001) addresses themes such as memory, ideas of loss, and aging. The poems display a detached tone and dark humor that have become recurring elements in Glück's writing.
From the publication of Firstborn, Glück has been recognized as a significant poetic voice, though her earlier poems have been criticized for being derivative of the confessional poets Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton. It was not until the publication of The House on Marshland and subsequent volumes that her unique abilities with the lyric form were more widely acknowledged and praised. Frequently, commentators have lauded Glück's use of mythic material, especially the unique way in which she retraces the patterns of these archetypal stories through an individual consciousness. Likewise, her sparse writing style and emotionally removed tone have received considerable attention. Critics such as Elizabeth Dodd have asserted that using “clever metrics” enables Glück to create sonnet-like poems and ballad-like stanzas and to mirror and comment on the themes in her work. Glück has drawn the attention of many feminist critics who have been interested in her treatment of gender roles and the identities and actions of the women in her poems. Some have criticized her negative portrayals of female experience while others have argued that Glück's work considers artistic expression and female sexuality to be opposing forces. Other critics, in contrast, have viewed her work as a direct and necessary feminist response to male-dominated culture. Glück's evolving style has also become the subject of much critical commentary. While some observers have disapproved of Glück's trend toward longer and more involved poem sequences, most reviewers have praised her efforts in this direction, especially the book-length works Ararat, The Wild Iris, and Meadowlands. The latter two, particularly, have been viewed as significant, not only for their interrelated poems, but for their departures from the poet's perceived style—The Wild Iris for employing the conceit of speaking flowers and Meadowlands for displaying ironic humor in place of the grim tone Glück typically used in other works.
Firstborn (poetry) 1968
The House on Marshland (poetry) 1975
Descending Figure (poetry) 1980
The Triumph of Achilles (poetry) 1985
Ararat (poetry) 1990
The Wild Iris (poetry) 1992
Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry (essays) 1994
Meadowlands (poetry) 1996
Vita Nova (poetry) 1999
The Seven Ages (poetry) 2001
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SOURCE: Raffel, Burton. “The Poetry of Louise Glück.” Literary Review 31, no. 3 (spring 1988): 261–73.
[In the following review, Raffel discusses the poetry in Firstborn, The House on Marshland, Descending Figure, and The Triumph of Achilles, focusing on technique and structure.]
Born in 1943, Louise Glück has published four volumes of poetry: Firstborn (1968), The House on Marshland (1975), Descending Figure (1980), and The Triumph of Achilles (1985). She has won prizes and awards; she is reasonably well-known. But the kind of acclaim I believe she deserves has not come to her. She is not yet quite the poet she is capable of being. In particular, her last book represents a severe falling off (though the Poetry Society of America gave it the 1985 Melville Cane Award and The National Book Critics Circle gave it its 1986 poetry prize: I do not pretend to infallibility). But the toughness, complexity and, at its best, quite incredible insight and hard, tested truth of her poetry, as well as its masterfully lyric sweep, make her, at the least, one of the most interesting poets working today. Her work needs to be much more fully and widely read, and thought about, and discussed.
Firstborn, obliquely dedicated to Stanley Kunitz, with whom Glück had been studying (“to my teacher”), is rich in promise. The poems are strong, well...
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SOURCE: Keller, Lynn. “‘Free / of Blossom and Subterfuge’: Louise Glück and the Language of Renunciation.” In World, Self, Poem: Essays on Contemporary Poetry from the “Jubilation Poets,” edited by Leonard M. Trawick, pp. 120–29. Kent State University Press, 1990.
[In the following essay, Keller studies the themes of female sexuality and femininity in Firstborn, The House on Marshland, Descending Figure, and The Triumph of Achilles.]
It is a commonplace of American feminist criticism that, historically, linkage of the words woman and poet has yielded a powerful contradiction in terms, inevitably confronted by women attempting verse.1 Because those aspiring to the male status of poet have been caught in a conflict with their own female identity, as Gilbert and Gubar observe, “at its most painful the history of women's poetry is a story of struggle against … self-loathing” (xxiii). The poetry of Louise Glück testifies that being a woman continues to some contemporaries to seem an impediment to being a poet, and that women writers today may still struggle against consequent self-loathing. At the same time, Glück's achievement suggests that these pressures may, by providing major themes, compel or even enable women to write. Her often extremely negative sense of womanhood—as both a biologically and socially determined experience—has been crucial in...
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SOURCE: Berger, Charles. Review of Ararat, by Louise Glück. Raritan 10, no. 3 (winter 1994): 119–33.
[In the following review, Berger favorably reviews Ararat, commenting on the lyrical balance evident in the poetry and how the collection fits into the elegy genre.]
Louise Glück's Ararat is a book-length sequence of short lyrics set in the year following the death of the poet's father. Book-length is a phrase I usually recoil from when attached to lyric sequences, since it often serves as a plea for excusing local weaknesses. But Ararat truly is a volume of linked poems, a volume operating through laws of accrual where no single poem dominates others or—more remarkably—needs to be salvaged by the work as a whole. One marks each individual poem as it comes along, records slight shifts of focus and form, even while registering a tonal similarity between poems striking enough to make them cognate, but sufficiently flexible to avoid monotone. This is simply to say that strong family resemblances between poems reinforce the guiding obsessiveness of family romance in Ararat. The occasion of her father's death forces Glück to rehearse the history of this plain, gray house on Long Island, “the sort of place / you buy to raise a family.” Nothing extraordinary happened in this house, except for the quiet failure to sustain that idea of family. The death of an infant...
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SOURCE: Dodd, Elizabeth. “Louise Glück: The Ardent Understatement of Postconfessional Classicism.” In The Veiled Mirror and the Woman Poet: H. D., Louise Bogan, Elizabeth Bishop, and Louise Glück, pp. 149–96. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992.
[In the following essay, Dodd examines the influence of confessional poetry in Firstborn, the archetypal in The House on Marshland, myth and technique in The Triumph of Achilles, and the retreat from personal classicism in Ararat.]
We have seen three different manifestations of the personal classicist mode undertaken by three very different women. H. D. worked to develop the persona poem as a means to present a palimpsest of personal and mythic experience, and to embed autobiography within a timeless continuum of countless women's experiences. Even while declaring certain subjects taboo for women artists, Louise Bogan tried to perfect the lyric as a modernist form for women, a possibility for understated personal expression in a time when the high moderns often moved toward longer, disjunctive narratives and a greater reliance on irony. Elizabeth Bishop continued to enhance the possibilities for a tone emphasizing the emotional importance of personal details that are themselves muted or even omitted.
The mature work of the contemporary poet Louise Glück represents a kind of postconfessional personal...
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SOURCE: Finch, Annie. “Unrelinquished Burdens.” North American Review 279, no. 4 (July–August 1994): 40–42.
[In the following excerpt, Finch discusses the thematically unified poems in The Wild Iris and the spiritual emphasis of the poems.]
Louise Glück's Pulitzer-prize winning collection of poems, The Wild Iris, focuses on the burden of religious pain. The book consists of an ongoing dialogue, a dialogue that is rarely easy, between a god and a human being. Glück lets the poems' titles indicate who is speaking, and the essential incompatibility between the two participants in the book's uncomfortable conversation is suggested at the start by the fact that god speaks only as various aspects of nature: “Red Poppy,” “Violets,” “Retreating Wind,” while the speaker addresses god only through the medieval Christian forms of “Matins” and “Vespers.” The speaker's modes of address, like the notions of a distant, removed and uncaring god that permeate this book, seem to impede direct or meaningful contact between the speaker and Glück's essentially pantheistic nature-god who, while occasionally given artificially forced diction (“that which you call death / I remember”), more often speaks with spontaneous strangeness, as if nature's heart were talking.
Glück's human speaker, who describes herself in her opening poem as “depressed, yes,”...
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SOURCE: Jansen, Reamy. Review of Proofs & Theories: Essays on Poetry, by Louise Glück. Literary Review 39, no. 3 (spring 1996): 441–43
[In the following positive review, Jansen praises Proofs and Theories, addressing Glück's growth as a poet.]
Louise Glück presents herself as a reader “speaking to those I have heard” in Proofs & Theories: Essays on Poetry. Often operating declaratively—“In Williams, loneliness is a song”—these sixteen essays are suited to their eccentric, scientific-sounding title, rebelliously putting proofs first and tying them to theory through the knot of her ampersand. As with her poetry (with the insistent, observing “I,” say, of “Mock Orange”), there is a heightened spokenness to her prose, and we are lucky to overhear her declarations.
Glück's project is two-fold. She offers an evaluative vocabulary for the reading of poetry, along with an exaltation of poets—George Oppen, John Berryman, T. S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, and, amazingly, Robinson Jeffers, among others—whose work she values for what is often “unsaid,” a quality “analogous to the unseen … to the power of ruins.” Both concerns are illuminated through autobiographical glimpses of her growth as a poet. Some essays, such as her first, “The Education of the Poet,” place her before us as forthrightly as her use here of the definite...
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SOURCE: Nash, Susan Smith. Review of Meadowlands, by Louise Glück. World Literature Today 71, no. 1 (winter 1997): 156–57.
[In the following review, Nash compliments Glück's use of archetypal characters in Meadowlands.]
What is often unappreciated or overlooked in Louise Glück's poetry is her ability to bring a mesmerizing array of emotional nuances to a single poem. For many poets, the result would be bathos, or undigestible clichés. However, Glück uses disparate and often contradictory emotions to create a subtle representation of the irresolution and ambiguity that often characterize a relationship or a marriage.
The first poem [in Meadowlands], “Penelope's Song,” explores anticipation and reconciliation, as the narrator addresses Penelope, who awaits the return of her lover with a poignant, dreamlike intensity that is shadowed by the realization that their relationship is very fragile. It is almost as though the more urgent her longing, the more likely that the long-anticipated reunion will be a disappointment. The problem is the body (and, by extension, language in a post-Wittgensteinian world): “You have not been completely / perfect either; with your troublesome body / you have done things you shouldn't / discuss in poems.” This is a dream of unity which has been clouded by the realization that unity—if ever achieved at all—is temporary and quite...
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SOURCE: Burt, Stephen. “The Nervous Rose.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4911 (16 May 1997): 25.
[In the following review, Burt compares Glück's poetry in The Wild Iris to the poetry of Sylvia Plath, commenting on the psychological searching in the collection and the focus on spirituality.]
The exceptional short poems in The Wild Iris describe a year in and around a garden—both Louise Glück's own garden, in Vermont, and an allegorical and general garden world. Plants speak poems named for them; Glück addresses a creator-God in seventeen poems called “Matins” or “Vespers”; in poems named for weather or seasons (“Clear Morning,” “September Twilight”), the God of the Garden responds. Glück's skeletal lines, with their unexpected stops, make her poems all gaps and essentials, full of what art books call “negative space.” Her garden itself is a cleared space, like a stage; it brings into play the oldest metaphors, the cycle of the seasons, the progress of the year. The flowers' inevitable, natural conditions—burial, resurrection, interdependence, endless waiting—explain hard-to-grasp states of mind, as in the opening poem:
At the end of my suffering there was a door. Hear me out: that which you call death I remember.
(“The Wild Iris”)
(A worse poet would have reversed those couplets.) People, for Glück,...
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SOURCE: Henry, Brian. “The Odyssey Revisited.” Virginia Quarterly Review 74, no. 3 (summer 1998): 571–77.
[In the following essay, Henry argues that Meadowlands reveals “the tragedy common to all relationships,” asserting the poems are compelling due to Glück's unique retelling of the Odyssey myth.]
Since Homer introduced that wily traveler Odysseus to the world, countless poets have attempted to resurrect the tale and make it their own. Odysseus' ten-year voyage home has become an undeniable part of our collective unconscious. Children draw a Cyclops on one page and the action figure du jour on the next. In a similar gesture, poets major and minor have dipped into the Iliad and Odyssey for their own poems; just in the past few decades, poets as diverse as Marilyn Hacker, Richard Wilbur, Margaret Atwood, Michael Longley, and Yannis Ritsos have devoted poems to Odysseus or to aspects of his journey (Circe seems to be particularly alluring of late). Now, Louise Glück, perhaps our most accomplished rewriter of classical and Biblical narratives, inhabits Odysseus' world and transforms it into her own in her newest collection, Meadowlands.
Unlike most poets revising the Odyssey, Glück is less interested in the man and more intrigued by the people around him—Penelope, Telemachus, Circe. As suitors swarm the house, cleaning out...
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SOURCE: Upton, Lee. “Fleshless Voices: Louise Glück's Rituals of Abjection and Oblivion.” In The Muse of Abandonment: Origin, Identity, Mastery in Five American Poets, pp. 119–43. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1998.
[In the following essay, Upton discusses how Glück's poetry, particularly Meadowlands, addresses such themes as birth and death, the body and reproduction, children, distrust of the sensual, and generational cycles.]
Louise Glück's poetry travels over ancient ground in the Western tradition. Yet while her means are in some ways traditional—the adoption of the lyric voice and august themes of nature, mortality, and women's abandonment by lovers—the conceptual value of her poetry is provocative. Her speakers insinuate a wrong not allied so much to individual circumstance (circumstance seeming too easily assumed for Glück, most notably causal circumstance) as to what are posed as ineradicable laws of nature and being. Since her early career Glück has been writing a psychological autobiography, detailing the war between flesh and spirit as particularly charged because of her condition as a woman. Unlike a poet such as Marianne Moore, whom Randall Jarrell described as being preoccupied with defensive measures, Glück does not rely on a code of self-protective morals. And unlike Moore, she is, for all the mythic resonance of her work, hardly given to the fabular. Her...
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SOURCE: Longenbach, James. “Louise Glück's Nine Lives.” Southwest Review 84, no. 2 (1999): 184–98.
[In the following essay, Longenbach compares Vita Nova with Glück's previous collections, particularly Meadowlands, The Wild Iris, and Ararat.]
Vita Nova, Louise Glück's eighth book of poems, begins with this enigmatic exchange between master and apprentice.
The master said You must write what you see. But what I see does not move me. The master answered Change what you see.
Change is Louise Glück's highest value. Each of her books has begun, she admits, in a “conscious diagnostic act, a swearing off” of the work preceding it. But because of what Glück calls in Vita Nova her “inflexible Platonism,” she is both entranced and threatened by “something beyond the archetype.” If change is what she most craves, it is also what she most resists, what is most difficult for her, most hard-won. And if her career has often moved forward at the expense of its own past, Vita Nova feels like the inauguration of a different kind of movement. Rather than retreating to an extreme of diction or sensibility, the poems of Vita Nova ultimately feel at home in a fluctuating middle ground that is not a compromise between extremes. Near the end of the book, the apprentice recognizes that she has internalized the lesson of the master....
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SOURCE: Reynolds, Oliver. “You Will Suffer.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 5026 (30 July 1999): 23.
[In the following review, Reynolds favorably reviews Meadowlands and Proofs and Theories, noting the interconnections between the two works.]
Yeats's “The Choice” is unequivocal: “The intellect of man is forced to choose / Perfection of the life, or of the work.” Rhetorically acute though this may be, it rests on rickety premisses. The first option is an impossible ideal. The second may be attainable, but at what cost? An art-form brought to the dictionary definition of perfection—complete; exact; absolute; unqualified—risks the aridity of what Larkin, at the end of “Poetry of Departures,” describes as “a life / Reprehensibly perfect.” Life—incomplete, imprecise, contingent—is complemented rather than opposed by art: the artist's task is to integrate the two. Yeats bypassed the claim of “The Choice” by wresting poetry from the turmoil of his own life; the contingent near-perfections of art climb out of, but still acknowledge, “the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.” Louise Glück's seventh book of poems, Meadowlands, [is published] alongside Proofs and Theories a short, weighty book of her brief, essential essays. Together, they provide one of the most interesting and persuasive examples of a contemporary poet integrating life and work in a...
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SOURCE: Clark, Tom. “Subversive Histories.” American Poetry Review 28, no. 5 (September–October 1999): 7–10.
[In the following excerpt, Clark praises Glück's foray into a dreamworld in Vita Nova.]
“Life is very weird, no matter how it ends, / very filled with dreams.” Poet Louise Glück's haunting, arresting Vita Nova, a book of trial and tears, heartbreak, resignation and renewal, is also a book of dreaming.
Glück's poetic sequence begins and ends in parallel framing dreams, and in between follows a drifting narrative course out of which instructive dreams appear like floating islands in soundless fog. With unmisgiving trust this poet finds both faith and value in a kind of wakeful second-seeing that re-interprets ancient mythic fables with the same analytic intensity it applies to personal dream symbolism, insistently relating the lessons of both sorts of dreams to life in the “real” world.
“I dreamed this: / can waking take back what happened to me?” asks Glück's speaker in “Castile,” a poem about a dream lover encountered beneath a Spanish orange tree. “Does it have to happen in the world to be real?” For this poet, a belated Romantic, dreams are events in reality: they alter things, you can't take them back.
That point is made beautifully in the opening poem of the sequence, recounting an expansive dream of...
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SOURCE: Diggory, Terence. “Louise Glück's Lyric Journey.” Salmagundi, nos. 124–125 (fall–winter 1999): 303–18.
[In the following review, Diggory offers a positive assessment of Glück's critique of lyric in Vita Nova.]
Recent reports of the death of the lyric are as naive as they are exaggerated. Since it originates in the loss of the beloved object and the attempt to compensate in song, the lyric would like nothing better than to treat its own death as the occasion for song that would resonate from hitherto unsounded depths of subjectivity. Rather than the exhaustion of the mode, what we find in the work of the best poets writing lyric today is an increasingly rigorous critique of its materials, in keeping with a general tendency of the arts in this century. Louise Glück's latest volume, her eighth, provides a brilliant example. Its closely woven ironies present what is living and what is dead in scandalous proximity, but the work of discrimination thus demanded of the reader can only be enlivening.
The ironic gesture of proclaiming a new life in a dead language sets the tone for Glück's Vita Nova. When Dante cited the Latin phrase Incipit vita nova at the opening of La Vita Nuova, it helped to distinguish his innovative use of the Italian vernacular in the surrounding prose. Through the ensuing story of Dante's sublimated love for Beatrice, told in...
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SOURCE: Jackson, Richard. Review of Vita Nova, by Louise Glück. Prairie Schooner 75, no. 2 (summer 2000): 198–199.
[In the following excerpt, Jackson asserts that Vita Nova “reverses expectations” for readers as it explores myth and everyday life.]
The mythology in Louise Glück's Vita Nova is ostensibly more traditional, though she constantly intertwines the classic myths and the myths of our often failed lives. It is not surprising that in this book, following upon the book-length sequence (almost single poems with chapters) The Wild Iris and especially Meadowlands, and describing the breakdown of a relationship, uses the Orpheus-Eurydice myth (and the myth of Persephone in the distant background) as its central metaphor. What Glück does is revitalize these myths in our contemporary idiom, an act as much of interpretation as transformation. In an austere language she allows the mythic to fill in what the spare words suggest. The book pits the search for clarity against the search for meaning, a sense of isolation against a need for love. Aeneas in “The Golden Bough,” for example, gives up love for clarity, no matter how much his emotions become blurred by his “more human” heart. In “Earthly Love” Glück says: “we protect ourselves / as well as we can / even to the point of denying / clarity.” Nothing is so simple in the world of Vita...
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SOURCE: Perryman, John. “Washing Homer's Feat: Louise Glück, Modernism, and the Classics.” South Carolina Review 33, no. 1 (fall 2000): 176–84.
[In the following essay, Perryman discusses Glück's rewriting of classic tales, particularly in Meadowlands, and how she has appropriated poetic structures used by modernists such as T. S. Eliot and James Joyce.]
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louise Glück continues to distinguish her work from that of her peers, most recently through the instructive way with which she makes use of the past. In Meadowlands (1996), her latest collection of poetry, she incorporates the classics without condescending to them or treating them with mere irony, thereby demonstrating how one can gracefully accept some parts of the past while refusing others. In fact “nostos”—usually translated from the Greek as “return”—not only serves as the provocative title of a poem from Meadowlands but also provides a principle of organization for that work and her book of essays Proofs and Theories (1994), which won the Pen/Martha Albrand Award. These two works, when read in conjunction with her collection of poems The Triumph of Achilles (1985), suggest that for the last several years Glück has been preoccupied with how antiquity and literary modernism, specifically the often maligned high modernism of Pound/Eliot/Joyce, bear on the present....
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SOURCE: Gregerson, Linda. “The Sower against Gardens.” Kenyon Review 23, no. 1 (winter 2001): 115–33.
[In the following essay, Gregerson provides an in-depth analysis of the poems in The Wild Iris and Meadowlands, claiming that the two books are “two poles of a single project.”]
Louise Glück is one of those enviable poets whose powers and distinction emerged early and were early recognized. Her work has been justly admired and justly influential, as only work of the very first order can be: work that is so impeccably itself that it alters the landscape in which others write while at the same time discouraging (and dooming) the ordinary homage of direct imitation. In 1992 Glück published a sixth book and in 1996 a seventh, which, in their sustained engagement with inherited fable and inherited form, in their simultaneously witty and deadly serious subversions, constitute a deepening so remarkable that it amounts to a new departure. These books are unlike one another in any number of outward dispositions, but they share a common intellectual purchase; they are two poles of a single project.
1. LIKE ME
The Wild Iris makes its entrance late in the life of a tradition and its self-wrought woes: the moral and aesthetic dilemmas of sentimental projection, the metaphysical dilemma of solitude (if the others with whom I am in dialogue are...
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Christophersen, Bill. “Classical Virtues—and Vices.” Poetry 177, no. 2 (December 2000): 217–24.
Christophersen offers a mixed assessment of Vita Nova.
Daniels, Kate. “Bombs in Their Bosoms.” Southern Review 35, no. 4 (fall 1999): 846–56.
Daniels praises Vita Nova, discussing themes such as emotional healing, recovering from loss, and solitary life.
Frost, Elisabeth. “Disharmonies of Desire.” Women's Review of Books 14, no. 2 (November 1996): 24.
Frost argues that Glück's bleak vision of romantic love in Meadowlands, though presented with skill and humor, is ultimately limiting.
Henry, Brian. “To Speak of Woe.” Kenyon Review 23, no. 1 (winter 2001): 166–72.
Henry argues that the poems in Vita Nova avoid slipping into self-indulgence.
Longenbach, James. “Poetry in Review.” Yale Review 84, no. 4 (October 1996): 158–62.
Longenbach describes the diverse but interconnected poems in Meadowlands, classifying them as both “dissatisfied and beautiful.”
McLane, Maureen. Review of Meadowlands, by Louise Glück. Chicago Review 43, no. 1 (winter 1997): 120–22.
McLane comments that Glück...
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