If you’ve read FLOTSAM before or know me at all, you’ll probably be aware (and perhaps sick and tired) of my undying admiration, adulation and just BIG LOVE for Louise Glück.
I wrote my undergrad thesis solely on her, and have never felt so close to someone elses poems. Drown me in them, please. What I explored in my thesis gave me a sense that the body, and emotions, could be in poems without being weighed down by overtly ‘Confessional’ tropes. Similarly, that the inner life, no matter how crazy it sounds to someone else, must be accessed in order to write.
Formally too, her pared back aesthetic, dedication to the lyric and interest in sequence have all been essential foundations to how I approach writing.
And of course, that delicious balance! No poet will ever match her, in my eyes, in balancing the abstract and concrete or the classical or contemporary.
One of the poems I read of Glück’s was ‘Nostos‘, and I still remember the shock of that stanza where she slashes open the seams of the poem, bringing its artifice to the front of the reading. Yes, I like things to be meta sometimes.
It’s impossible for me to identify, or underestimate, the influence her work has had on me. As much as I feel like she would entirely resist the term, her poetry has been a midwife to my own voice. So, when, as part of the anthology of influence project I spoke about before I wrote to Louise Glück to inquire about her own influences, I really didn’t even dare think of her actually replying.
Coming home after a pretty heinous saturday night, I found a letter in a Yale envelope. Handwritten. I couldn’t touch it. It took me 10 minutes to open the envelope. Another 10 to read the letter. Handwritten. Her handwriting. I know this sounds incredibly creepy but having that kind of physical connection: her hands having shaped the ciphers, my eyes taking them in, really blew my mind.
So that was awesome. And I haven’t really stopped carrying it around with me.
I’ve also been writing about Glück again in an academic sense, which is incredibly exciting. Being surrounded by her work again is oddly a comfort. I re-read one of the most strickening, simple poems of hers from Meadowlands (if you haven’t read this, it’s a booklength sequence of lyrics that adopt a strategy of ‘personal classicism’ that figures the narrative of a contemporary marriage with Homer’s Odyssey). This poem is in no way the summit of her work, but it has become a totem or token for me. It’s called ‘The Wish’ and I’m putting here, because it has been helping breathe the last few days:
Remember that time you made the wish?
______I make a lot of wishes.
The time I lied to you
about the butterfly. I always wondered
what you wished for.
______What do you think I wished for?
I don’t know. That I’d come back,
that we’d somehow be together in the end.
______I wished for what I always wish for.
______I wished for another poem.