A Glimpse into Louise Glück's Poetic Genius

Nobel Prize for Literature laureate poet Louise Glück's work is tender in the more lyrical and ascetic sense. Extremely linguistically appealing, Glück’s work is known for containing fewer words while being able to deliver profound meanings. Creating such poetry requires the ability to comprehend the complexity of human emotions and trace them onto the paper in simple, but highly reminiscent strings of words that can make readers feel the emotions long buried. 

Glück poetry flows through her soul which is very evident to her numerous admirers as they also feel that flow while they find a safe space for themselves in her poetry. One of the most renowned American literary critic says, “cryptic narratives invite our participation: we must, according to the case, fill out the story, substitute ourselves for the fictive personages, invent a scenario from which the speaker can utter her lines, decode the import, ‘solve’ the allegory.”

Poetry is considered to be a sublime medium through which a poet is able to interact with their inner self on a profound level as it gives them a space to question the workings of the world. However not just this, poetry is a vessel that has the capacity to contain the brimming emotions of all sorts along with the organisation of their thoughts while the imagination runs on its course throughout the creative process for a poet.

Glück's poignant poetry connects with life in all of its colours and phases like viciousness, fleetingness, complexity, epiphany and so on. its serendipity, complexity, vicissitudes and fragility. This can be seen in Glück’s sophomore book of poetry The House on Marshland (1975) is known to be the one that is considered as the advent of a powerful new voice in the scene of American poetry. Gretel In Darkness specifically is known to be both controversial and brilliant as it explores the theme of familial and cultural trauma. Additionally, Glück’s Averno (2006) reimagines ancient Greek & Roman mythologies to venture through the themes of grief, familial relationships and the destruction of emotional bonds.

Louise Glück's collection of books via Untwine Me.jpg

The influence of Rainer Maria Rilke and Emily Dickinson can be seen dancing lightly in the majority of her works. Glück's poetry is celebrated for the beautiful fusion that it creates of incorporating unsophisticated and simple structure with flowy language all the while being extremely abstract. Glück's creative power lies in her ability to express human existence in a manner that appears to be less lonely and more universal, united and all-embracing.


Here's one of her most loved poems from shelf of her brilliant works:

The Empty Glass
by Louise Glück 


I asked for much; I received much.
I asked for much; I received little, I received
next to nothing.

And between? A few umbrellas opened indoors.
A pair of shoes by mistake on the kitchen table.

O wrong, wrong—it was my nature. I was
hard-hearted, remote. I was
selfish, rigid to the point of tyranny.

But I was always that person, even in early childhood.
Small, dark-haired, dreaded by the other children.
I never changed. Inside the glass, the abstract
tide of fortune turned
from high to low overnight.

Was it the sea? Responding, maybe,
to celestial force? To be safe,
I prayed. I tried to be a better person.
Soon it seemed to me that what began as terror
and matured into moral narcissism
might have become in fact
actual human growth. Maybe
this is what my friends meant, taking my hand,
telling me they understood
the abuse, the incredible shit I accepted,
implying (so I once thought) I was a little sick
to give so much for so little.
Whereas they meant I was good (clasping my hand intensely)—
a good friend and person, not a creature of pathos.

I was not pathetic! I was writ large,
like a queen or a saint. 

Well, it all makes for interesting conjecture.
And it occurs to me that what is crucial is to believe
in effort, to believe some good will come of simply trying,
a good completely untainted by the corrupt initiating impulse
to persuade or seduce—

What are we without this?
Whirling in the dark universe,
alone, afraid, unable to influence fate— 

What do we have really?
Sad tricks with ladders and shoes,
tricks with salt, impurely motivated recurring
attempts to build character.
What do we have to appease the great forces?

And I think in the end this was the question
that destroyed Agamemnon, there on the beach,
the Greek ships at the ready, the sea
invisible beyond the serene harbor, the future
lethal, unstable: he was a fool, thinking
it could be controlled. He should have said
I have nothing, I am at your mercy. 


Written by Ayusshi


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