Louise Gluck: Poems Summary

Louise Gluck: Poems Summary

Louise Gluck's poetry has been described as intimate and familial. Her style reworks ancient mythology and makes it relevant for the modern reader. Her poetry goes beyond focussing on one genre, it describes characters fighting life and looking for meaning. Counterintuitive to her name meaning "luck" in German, her poetry focusses on the darker and bleaker themes of existence. The following summary will describe three of her poems to exemplify her writing style and choice of content.

"The Wild Iris" (1992): Gluck's Pulitzer Prize winning collection of poems is named after this one poem. It describes the journey of the lyrical I returning from death. The poem starts with the character dying after much suffering and then telling the audience that they remember what happened before. The poems explains the loss of senses and the horribleness of consciousness in the grave. It ended, life ended and the lyrical I tells the audience that the voicelessness of death is wrong. That one does not loose ones voice and that those that come back mostly find a new voice. The poem ends with the lyrical I reveling in its new voice, finding strength within itself after being reborn.

"Vita Nova" (1999): Another poem lending its name to a price-winning collection. The poem seems to be disconnected at first. The lyrical I speaks to an unnamed recipient, telling them that she has to be remember as they saved her. This first line, disconnected from the rest of the poem by a paragraph, sets the mood. The rest of the poem is a recount of a spring in Lugano. The lyrical I tells of the men buying tickets and laughter in the air. A scene beside a lake, flags raised on ships and someone throwing their hat into the water joyously. The mother bringing cakes to the family. These memories are interspersed with other paragraphs describing meta-analysis of the memory, pragmatically connected only through a thin thread. The careless joy of childhood laughter, the way sound and pictures are branded in the memory; The poem ends with the realization that spring has come with these memories to prepare the I for death, yet it is still spring.

"Averno" (2006): This poem from the later phase of Gluck's writing is named after a place in Southern Italy that has been considered the entrance to the underworld. The poem describes the mental processes in age, the struggle with memory. It starts with the lyrical I telling of children not being interested in the ramblings of an old person about the meaning of spirit. You die when your spirit goes. The poem goes on explaining that old people think about such things as their mind leaves them, as they forget to say simple things like chair. The lyrical I remembers chair, but it does not care anymore, it does not want to be alone. The poem ends with the realization that in the end such thoughts don't help, that age takes away the spirit and all the knowledge you had before does not help. This is symbolized through the plural of chair.

These three rewarded poems by Louise Gluck are exemplary of her style and choice of topic. The focus on first person narration and the bleak outlook, even in such joyous events like spring, are indicative of Gluck's poetry.

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