- 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
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
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.”