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  • Dr.Pragya Suman

Editor’s Ink/ Louise Gluck:The Family Poems

I recently read Poems 1962-2020, by Louise Gluck. Book is written over vast themes. I liked mother poems more. Louise Gluck is an American poet and Nobel prize winner of 2020. Though she is considered an autobiographical poet, she has rejected the notion of being a confessional poet. Her lines are lyrical, clear and limpid; the emotional intensity and the way she draws images to meditate on personal experiences have made her a great poet. There are so many Mother poems here, I liked For My Mother


It was better when we were

together in one body.

Thirty years. Screened

through the green glass

of your eye, moonlight

filtered into my bones

as we lay

in the big bed, in the dark,

waiting for my father.

Thirty years. He closed

your eyelids with

two kisses. And then spring

came and withdrew from me

the absolute

knowledge of the unborn,

leaving the brick stoop

where you stand, shading

your eyes, but it is

night, the moon

is stationed in the beech tree,

round and white among

the small tin markers of the


Thirty years. A marsh

grows up around the house.

Schools of spores circulate

behind the shades, drift

through gauze flutterings of vegetation.

In America, the spring months are March, April and May. Louise was also born in spring on 22 April 1943. In the first part, the child is in the mother's womb, and both are together in the body. After birth, in the spring, the child leaves the mother's body, but the moon is still there, before and after birth, shedding moonlight on prenatal bones and after it among the small tin markers of the stars. The last lines show the makeshifts of life; being a relic is an everlasting destiny. Here we see the absent moon. Marsh has grown around the house, which was a spectator of mother and daughter’s bonding. The last line gauze fluttering of vegetation hails the forthcoming life, relics are inevitable, but creation comes again and again. The linen between alive and dead is thin and transparent like gauze.

The major themes of her poetry is death, marriage, family bondings, rebirth which she scrutinizes through the poetic prism, in a nuanced way.

Gluck lives in Long Island, USA , a place filled with stark solitude that triggers the self inspection in a person of immense creative mind. In a poem Egg she talks about A week’s meat spoiled, and immediately we see the peas giggled in their pods. The two contrast phases circle in her nib, especially as she shows fondness for her mother. In poem THANKSGIVING she says

My mother had the skewers in her hands.

I watched her tucking skin

as though she missed her

young, white bits of onion

misted snow over the prolonged death.

Here white bits of onion is a mundane metaphor, transformed into abstract metaphor, misted snow, they appear like conjoined twins, tucked at liminal stiles, that is death. They appear mutually transpiring in each other,

In the poem For My Father she shares her solitude as she is enduring father’s death.

"Now, after so much solitude,

death doesn’t frighten me,

not yours, not mine either.

And those words, the last time,

have no power over me. I


intense love always leads to


For once, your body doesn’t frighten me."

The solitude of the newer Island reflects in the metaphors melting and appearing in the poem THE ISLANDER

stalking chickens, supper freezing in the dark, hunching night, etc.

But not always is paleness here, In Grandmother she writes about nostalgic grandmother, narrating—

“Often I would stand at the window—

your grandfather was a young man then—

waiting, in the early evening.”

She has been inspired by Emily Dickinson, in nobel prize lecture she admitted—

“Dickinson had chosen me, or recognized me, as I sat there on the sofa. We were an elite, companions in invisibility, a fact known only to us, which each corroborated for the other. In the world, we were nobody.”

Gluck keeps a mixed culture, hybrid. Her paternal grandparents were Hungarian Jews, her work does engage the hybrid inheritance.

“The Triumph of Achilles,” seems to reference her family’s experience directly:

My father’s father came

to New York from Dhlua:

one misfortune followed another.

In Hungary, a scholar, a man of property.

Then failure: an immigrant

rolling cigars in a cold basement.

… in such a world, to scorn

privilege, to love

reason and justice, always

to speak the truth —

which has been

the salvation of our people

since to speak the truth gives

the illusion of freedom.

Enduring hybrid culture was tormentic to her, she didn’t like to attend the Hebrew school and showed a broken inclination towards Jewish religious rituals. As she accepted in interview—

“It wasn’t so much that I was repelled by Judaism but that I was repelled by my family,” Glück said. “I did not want to be a member of the family in which I was born, and I felt religion to be an emblem of that family.”

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