The collected works of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award-winning writer explores her transfigured landscapes and offers insight into her unique form created to reflect the human drive to release the past in order to realize the yet-unimagined.
There’s a telling blurb about Glück on the back cover by Dwight Garner, that reads, ‘Why love what you will lose?” she asks. She answers her own question: “There is nothing else to love.” That quote reminds me of why we find flowers so beautiful.
Let me try something different here. Normally when writing about a collection, people highlight their favorite poems, or ones that represent the artist, or maybe ones that share a common theme. Instead, I’m going to flip through the book, randomly pick a page, and see what lines there impress me, just to give you a flavor of her work. Many times, this is just how I choose a new book of poetry. As there is a lot to be said for randomness.
My first choice clearly reminds me of my late wife, Vicky, with these two lines from the poem, “Anniversary.”
“I said you could snuggle. That doesn’t mean
your cold feet all over my dick”
“At first when you went away
I was frightened; then
a boy touched me on the street,
his eyes were level with mine,
clear and grieving: I
called him in; I spoke to him
in our own language,
but his hands were yours,”
“The Dream of Mourning”
“I sleep so you will be alive,
it is that simple.
The dreams themselves are nothing.
They are the sickness you control,
I rush toward you in the summer twilight,
not in the real world, but in the buried one
where you are waiting,”
“A Warm Day”
“Today the sun was shining
so my neighbor washed her nightdresses in the river—
she comes home with everything folded in a basket,
beaming, as though her life had just been
lengthened a decade. Cleanliness makes her happy—
it says you can begin again,
the old mistakes needn’t hold you back.”
“The light stays longer in the sky, but it’s a cold light,
it brings no relief from winter”
“At the same time as the sun’s setting,
a farm worker’s burning dead leaves,
It’s nothing, this fire.
It’s a small thing, controlled,
like a family run by a dictator.”
“There’s a moment after you move your eye away
when you forget where you are
because you’ve been living, it seems,
somewhere else, in the silence of the night sky.”
“A Slip of Paper”
“Today I went to the doctor—
the doctor said I was dying,
not in those words, but when I said it
she didn’t deny it—
What have you done to your body, her silence says.
We gave it to you and look what you did to it,
how you abused it”
“Walking at Night”
“Now that she is old,
the young men don’t approach her
so the nights are free,
the streets at dusk that were so dangerous
have become as safe as the meadow.”
Because I am who I am, some themes exposed themselves above, but if I did it all over again, my choices would be different. I generally think of Glück’s poetry as being controlled, precise, and shy of a great deal of sentiment, but wandering around in this large “house” of her poetry, I found more intensity, more sentimentality, and reflections on aging. I guess we’re all reflecting more on aging. I feel so glad that I lived in the house of Glück for a while.