Tag Archives: Louise Gluck

Using oneself as a laboratory

 [as a poet] . .  you’re going to write that which most concerns you, which most quickens your mind, and then to turn those subjects over with as resourceful and complex a touch as possible. I am endlessly irritated by the reading of my poems as autobiography. I draw on the materials my life has given me, but what interests me isn’t that they happen to me, what interests me is that they seem, as I look around, paradigmatic. We’re all born mortal. We have to contend with the idea of mortality. We all, at some point, love, with the risks involved, the vulnerabilities involved, the disappointments and great thrills of passion. This is common human experience, so what you use is the self as a laboratory, in which to practice, master, what seem to you central human dilemmas.

Louise Glück in interview with Grace Cavalieri (from here) 

 

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Qualities necessary for a writer

My father wanted to be a writer. But he lacked certain qualities: lacked the adamant need which makes it possible to endure every form of failure: the humiliation of being overlooked, the humiliation of being found moderately interesting, the unanswerable fear of doing work that, in the end, really isn’t more than moderately interesting, the discrepancy, which even the great writers live with (unless, possibly, they attain great age) between the dream and the evidence.

Louise Glück, Education of the Poet

(from here) 

 

 

 

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Thinking but not saying

How quiet you are, my aunt said.

 

It was true —

sounds weren’t coming out of my mouth. And yet

they were in my head, expressed, possibly,

as something less exact, thought perhaps,

though at the time they still seemed like sounds to me.

Something was there where there had been nothing.

Or should I say, nothing was there

but it had been defiled by questions —

Louise Gluck, Faithful and Virtuous Night, p 13

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Looking at a photograph of one’s mother

Several weeks ago I discovered a photograph of my mother

sitting in the sun, her face flushed as with achievement or triumph.

The sun was shining. The dogs

were sleeping at her feet where time was also sleeping,

calm and unmoving as in all photographs.

 

I wiped the dust from my mother’s face.

Indeed dust covered everything; it seemed to me the persistent

haze of nostalgia that protects all relics of childhood.

. . . .

from A Summer Garden , Louise Gluck

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Looking at a photo

           A Summer Garden BY LOUISE GLÜCK

Several weeks ago I discovered a photograph of my mother

sitting in the sun, her face flushed as with achievement or triumph.

The sun was shining. The dogs

were sleeping at her feet where time was also sleeping,

calm and unmoving as in all photographs.

I wiped the dust from my mother’s face.

Indeed, dust covered everything; it seemed to me the persistent

haze of nostalgia that protects all relics of childhood.

In the background, an assortment of park furniture, trees and shrubbery.

The sun moved lower in the sky, the shadows lengthened and darkened.

The more dust I removed, the more these shadows grew.

Summer arrived. The children

leaned over the rose border, their shadows

merging with the shadows of the roses.

A word came into my head, referring

to this shifting and changing, these erasures

that were now obvious—

it appeared, and as quickly vanished.

Was it blindness or darkness, peril, confusion?

Summer arrived, then autumn. The leaves turning,

the children bright spots in a mash of bronze and sienna.

(from here) 

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The soul

How deep it goes , this soul,

like a child in a department store,

seeking its mother —

Louise Gluck, Faithful and Virtuous Night

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Looking At A Photograph

The Couple in the Park

A man walks alone in the park and beside him a woman walks, also alone. How does one know? It is as though a line exists between them, like a line on a playing field. And yet, in a photograph they might appear a married couple, weary of each other and of the many winters they have endured together. At another time, they might be strangers about to meet by accident. She drops her book; stooping to pick it up, she touches, by accident, his hand and her heart springs open like a child’s music box. And out of the box comes a little ballerina made of wood. I have created this, the man thinks; though she can only whirl in place, still she is a dancer of some kind, not simply a block of wood. This must explain the puzzling music coming from the trees.

Louise Glück. “The Couple in the Park”  published in Faithful and Virtuous Night (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014)

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The moment of sorrow after finishing a novel

A Work of Fiction

As I turned over the last page, after many nights, a wave of sorrow envel- oped me. Where had they all gone, these people who had seemed so real? To distract myself, I walked out into the night; instinctively, I lit a cigarette. In the dark, the cigarette glowed, like a fire lit by a survivor. But who would see this light, this small dot among the infinite stars? I stood a while in the dark, the cigarette glowing and growing small, each breath patiently de- stroying me. How small it was, how brief. Brief, brief, but inside me now, which the stars could never be.                        Louise Glück (more here) 

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between mastery and mystery

“The dream … art is to be always
on the tipping point
between mastery and mystery”

Louise Glück

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