Louise Glck was born in May 1943 to a first generation businessman of Hungarian descent and his wife. She had an older sister who died prior to her birth, which became a major influence on GlckÕs writings in the future. In 1961 she graduated from high school and went on to attend Sarah Lawrence College and ultimately Columbia University. Through her educational years, Glck struggled with anorexia nervosa, which also became a heavy influence open her future writings and poetry. In 1968 Glck wrote and published her first book of poetry Firstborn which became well known for its technical control and isolated narratives. Soon after she began a relationship with Stanley Kunitz which eventually ended and caused a change in the focus of her future books. Due to her unique style of writing, Glck won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for acclaimed book The Wild Iris. After gaining fame in the poetry world, she was elected as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1999 and selected to receive the Wallace Stevens Award in 2008. Currently she is a writer-in-residence and professor at Yale University and has published eleven books of poetry.
*Information was the same from several different sources:
Louise Glck is well known in the poetry world for her technique and unique skill to Òplace individual experience in larger human context through correlations with mythology and the BibleÓ (Enotes.com). She consistently weaves in allusions throughout her pieces providing a greater understanding of humanity then most individuals. Also in her poetry, Glck prefers to utilize extended metaphors and alliteration. A vast majority of her poems are either written as or contain metaphors, the best example being her novel The Wild Iris where Glck compares life and relationships to a flower garden. Unlike other poetic figures, Glck uses simple vocabulary rather than larger and more educated words (Nelson). Though she does have simplistic and easy to understand word choice, each word has multiple connotations to add to the central meaning and theme to her poems. Also her diction all add together to magnify and create powerful imagery and expand on the metaphors in her work. In all of her works, Glck keeps her own sense of dark ironic humor, though few of her poems are actually light hearted in content (Enotes.com). Glck also follows a principle considered by some to be of the modernism style of poetry which is to not have a rhyme scheme nor set stanza lengths (Poet Foundation). Instead her poems are written in a continuous form, similar to that of a stream of consciousness, while still maintaining a clear pattern of thought. Throughout all her poems, Glck is very good at personifying her poems and embodying the position of the speaker. She provides a realistic feel to her work that creates a new and refreshing look into the mind of the speaker. Glck has the skill to write believable points of view though she herself has not been in their place and stilll make them seem genuine and sincere.
Due to issues stemming from her childhood and adolensce a majority of GlckÕs work is bleak and dark, primarily involving Ònarrators isolated from their families, bitter from rejected love or disappointed in lifeÓ or a focus on death (Nelson). While there are instances throughout her literary pieces that are lighthearted and humourous, consistently Glck keeps a melancholic tone and generally depressing mood. Since her tones are generally of the sadder and more depressing end of things, GlckÕs general themes all revolve around something being unsatisfactory or negative in nature, whether an individual has no hope for life or wishes for something better. In all of her books, Glck writes to readers in order to share her own feelings about life in general as well as show the reality of the world.
Louise Glck is a prime example of literary merit because of her unique sense of style and comnectable themes. She brings a rejuvantating feeling into the poetry field with her works being relatable and easy to understand. Even though her language is simple and her content basic, she paints pictures that look into the heart of issues bringing both hope and melancholy tones into view. While the poetry topics are seemingly the same throughout each book, they each hold a distinct quality about them which cause a different reaction every time it is read. Glck is readable and realistic making her poetry simple to understand even to those unskilled in poetry. She is a poet who writes for herself and so unintentionally writes for the audience, making her a pleasure to read and an example of excellent poetic literature.
Poems and Analysis
Summer by Louise Gluck
Remember the days of our first happiness,
how strong we were, how dazed by passion,
lying all day, then all night in the narrow bed,
sleeping there, eating there too: it was summer,
it seemed everything had ripened
at once. And so hot we lay completely uncovered.
Sometimes the wind rose; a willow brushed the window.
But we were lost in a way, didnÕt you feel that?
The bed was like a raft; I felt us drifting
far from our natures, toward a place where weÕd discover nothing.
First the sun, then the moon, in fragments,
stone through the willow.
Things anyone could see.
circles closed. Slowly the nights grew cool;
the pendant leaves of the willow
yellowed and fell. And in each of us began
a deep isolation, though we never spoke of this,
of the absence of regret.
We were artists again, my husband.
We could resume the journey.
In this poem, Glck uses the passing of the seasons and the death of a tree to symbolize the ending of a romantic relationship. The female narrator sees her love for her husband which once started out so strong and passionate slowly die away like the leaves of the willow. While this poem does not contain an obvious allusion that is characteristic of Glck, it contains a powerful visual comparison of a realistic relationship. The tone of this poem is filled with both bitterness and acceptance of the situation by the speaker. The poem also contains the basics of poety such as a simile, repetition, and alliteration that add to the romantic nature (or lack there of) of the poem.
The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck
At the end of my suffering
there was a door.
Hear me out: that which you call death
Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.
It is terrible to survive
buried in the dark earth.
Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.
You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:
center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.
The poem The Wild Iris is focused on the personification of a wild iris appearing to the world and blooming. Through the personifying of the flower comes the hopeful message of the recovery of the human spirit and the strength to continue to survive. While the speaker was obviously a flower due to the nature and course of the poem, the point of view was omniscient because of several key phrases referencing humanityÕs fears and emotions. This poem can also be taken as a way to describe the struggles in everyday life finding the true individual inside or a personÕs voice. The flower faces overwhelming odds only to ÔfindÕ itself and bloom into something beautiful and special-life.
A Fantasy by Louise Gluck
IÕll tell you something: every day
people are dying. And thatÕs just the beginning.
Every day, in funeral homes, new widows are born,
new orphans. They sit with their hands folded,
trying to decide about this new life.
Then theyÕre in the cemetery, some of them
for the first time. TheyÕre frightened of crying,
sometimes of not crying. Someone leans over,
tells them what to do next, which might mean
saying a few words, sometimes
throwing dirt in the open grave.
And after that, everyone goes back to the house,
which is suddenly full of visitors.
The widow sits on the couch, very stately,
so people line up to approach her,
sometimes take her hand, sometimes embrace her.
She finds something to say to everybody,
thanks them, thanks them for coming.
heart, she wants them to go away.
She wants to be back in the cemetery,
back in the sickroom, the hospital. She knows
it isnÕt possible. But itÕs her only hope,
the wish to move backward. And just a little,
not so far as the marriage, the first kiss.
The Fantasy centers around the very human issue of change and its outcome. The protagonist of the poem must deal with a major altering event in her life-the death of her husband-and must face the very real issue of what she must do to continue on. With blunt honesty, GlckÕs poem shows two choices and internal conflict an individual faces-wanting to go back in time or finding closure in the future. The thought process of the woman in question is seen using repetition and imagery, along with a narrator who is all knowing and wise. The title derives from the womanÕs situation since one of her choices must always be a fanasty. The tone of the poem is turmoil as well as indecision and sorrow, all part of the issues with grief.
Confession by Louise Gluck
To say IÕm
It wouldnÕt be true.
IÕm afraid of sickness, humiliation.
Like anyone, I have my dreams.
But IÕve learned to hide them,
To protect myself
From fulfillment: all happiness
Attracts the FatesÕ anger.
They are sisters, savages–
In the end they have
No emotion but envy.
In Confession, the individual in the poem is frightened to become happy because she does not want to become disappointed in life. She feels that any chance for her to actually experience a life will disappear if she tries to hard, so she would rather have nothing then face loss. The allusion to the Fates stresses that she feels no control, that she has no ability to affect her life. The assonace at the end of the poem emphasizes the emotional discord in the speaker-how she feels cheated in living because of outside forces. This poem also has the speaker be a representation of humanity and their general fears and issues. It is intended to be like a voice of the human soul and communicate the truth that resides in each and every person.
Poets.org. Acedemy of American Poets. Feb 19 2011. <http://www.poets.org>
Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. Feb 19 2011. <http://poetryfoundation.org>
Nelson, Cary.ÓLouise Glck.Ó Modern American Poetry. University of Illinois. Feb19 2011. <http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/gluck/gluck.htm>
Enotes.com. Enotes.com, Inc. Feb 19 2011.
Poems About. Word Press. March 23 2011. <http://www.poetsabout.org>