Coming Unstuck With Glück

From “Moonbeam.”

I’ve acquiesced to much of what I can’t quite fathom in Louise Glück’s poetry. Enough reaches me to defeat surliness. I feel surprisingly addressed at times:

… You are like me whether or not you admit it. / Unsatisfied. Meticulous. And your hunger is not for experience / but for understanding, as though it could be had in the abstract…

(“Moonbeam,” The Seven Ages, 2001)
From “Descent to the Valley.”

I’ve found a Glück poem that does not take a downbeat swerve. It’s so atypically buoyant that I’ve vowed to share the ending with someone I know who gives a rat’s ass about poetry:

How sweet my life now / in its descent to the valley, / the valley itself not mist-covered / but fertile and tranquil. / So that for the first time I find myself / able to look ahead, able to look at the world, / even to move toward it.

(“Descent to the Valley,” Vita Nova, 1999)
From “Vita Nova.”

Another poem, “Vita Nova,” features a saucy anti-crescendo. In the oneiric story-space of a “splitting-up dream,” the central character is an odd dog named Blizzard. The speaker interrogates the dream. Why is Blizzard a dog? Could Blizzard be “my child-self, unconsolable because / completely pre-verbal? With anorexia!” (The ironic exclamation point belongs to the poem. The “dog” “barely touched / the hummus in his dogfood dish.”)

From “Vita Nova.”

Who will explain to Blizzard that “Daddy needs you: Daddy’s heart is empty, / not because he’s leaving Mommy but because / the kind of love he wants Mommy doesn’t have?” The domestic trauma evoked in dream-recall has the dream-weirdness of jump cuts, non sequiturs, inexplicable cameos: “Erica with her maracas, / like the sands of time / personified”; and sardonic humor: “Mommy’s / too ironic—Mommy wouldn’t do / the rhumba in the driveway.”

From “Vita Nova.”

The conclusion, italicized as if in quotation, holds a feint at melodrama, but only to land an edgy punchline containing possibly a wink:

“I thought my life was over and my heart was broken. / Then I moved to Cambridge.

“Vita Nova,” Vita Nova, 1999)

It’s all “material,” a canny double entendre from a writer who delights in wringing full range from common words.

(c) 2022 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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