Last week I posted a poem by Louise Glück, who won the Nobel Prize, but I wrote this homage long before that happened–earlier this year, really, thinking about the virus:
after Louise Glück
Aren’t the days skimping
on light again,
doesn’t the time change soon,
shifting the scant light
doesn’t the chill in the air
doesn’t it remind you
how everything slows
doesn’t the garden
yield its last sweet tomato
its last cucumber
the basil turns brown
overnight, few eggs
in the nests
doesn’t it seem like this end
might be the end
Louise Glück won the Nobel Prize in literature this week, and I’m so pleased. I really admire her work. And each book is different. Here’s a sample, from Averno.
October (section 1)
Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn’t Frank just slip on the ice,
didn’t he heal, weren’t the spring seeds planted
didn’t the night end, didn’t the melting ice flood the narrow gutters
wasn’t my body rescued, wasn’t it safe
didn’t the scar form, invisible above the injury
terror and cold,
didn’t they just end, wasn’t the back garden harrowed and planted—
I remember how the earth felt, red and dense, in stiff rows, weren’t the seeds planted, didn’t vines climb the south wall
I can’t hear your voice
for the wind’s cries, whistling over the bare ground
I no longer care what sound it makes
when was I silenced, when did it first seem pointless to describe that sound
what it sounds like can’t change what it is—
didn’t the night end, wasn’t the earth safe when it was planted
didn’t we plant the seeds,
weren’t we necessary to the earth,
the vines, were they harvested?
Louise Glück is a poet whose works seems to evolve with each new book. This poem is one of my favorites:
Fish bones walked the waves off Hatteras.
And there were other signs
That Death wooed us, by water, wooed us
By land: among the pines
An uncurled cottonmouth that rolled on moss
Reared in the polluted air.
Birth, not death, is the hard loss.
I know. I also left a skin there.
Over breakfast we have have some pretty far ranging conversations. I am usually reading some poems (lately a selection Larry put together of his Berryman favorites), Larry is reading the Wall St. Journal or the NY Times. I read parts of these, too, the “soft” parts. I try to avoid the news, letting Larry be my filter. If it’s ever time to flee, I count on him to let me know.
Yesterday I was musing on what makes Louise Gluck’s poetry so powerful. Her imagery is not gorgeous, and her language tends to be plain not flashy. Yet the poetry is strong. Currents of feeling move though it and jump out at you. And Larry said: Yes, Berryman writes like a man on a high wire; but Louise stands on the ground. Continue reading “Snippets” →