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Averno is a small crater lake in southern Italy, regarded by the ancient Romans as the entrance to the underworld. That place gives its name to Louise Gluck's tenth collection: in a landscape turned irretrievably to winter, it is a gate or passageway that invites traffic between worlds while at the same time resisting their reconciliation. Averno is an extended lamentation, its long, restless poems no less spellbinding for being without conventional resolution or consolation, no less ravishing for being savage, ...
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Averno: Poems

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Averno is a small crater lake in southern Italy, regarded by the ancient Romans as the entrance to the underworld. That place gives its name to Louise Gluck's tenth collection: in a landscape turned irretrievably to winter, it is a gate or passageway that invites traffic between worlds while at the same time resisting their reconciliation. Averno is an extended lamentation, its long, restless poems no less spellbinding for being without conventional resolution or consolation, no less ravishing for being savage, grief-stricken. What Averno provides is not a map to a point of arrival or departure, but a diagram of where we are, the harrowing, enduring present.

About the Author:
Louise Gluck teaches at Yale University and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Editorial Reviews

Nicholas Christopher
The 18 poems in Averno, rich and resonant — with intricately linked imagery, overlapping themes, recurring characters — form a unified collection, but one in which each part never fails to speak for the whole.
— The New York Times
Maureen N. McLane
Reading Louise Glück is excruciating -- and this is a compliment. A poet of taut intensities, she walks a high-wire between the oracular and everyday, the absolute and the ephemeral, the monumental and the delicate. In her latest book, Glück ushers us into the realm of the dead: Averno is the lake west of Naples that, according to the Romans, was the entrance to the Underworld.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In a collection as good as her Pulitzer Prize-winning The Wild Iris (1992), Gluck gives the Persephone myth a staggering new meaning, casting that forlorn daughter as a soul caught in "an argument between the mother and the lover." Taken from Demeter, her possessive earth-goddess mother, and raped, kidnapped and wed by Hades, Persephone now faces the insatiable demands of both. In 17 multi-part lyrics centered in her familiar quatrains, Gluck traces Persephone's arc from innocence to, unhappily, experience: "This is the light of autumn," she writes in "October," "not the light that says/ I am reborn." Two poems entitled "Persephone the Wanderer" flesh out her predicament ("What will you do/ when it is your turn in the field with the god?") and the self-deceiving responses ("you will forget everything:/ those fields of ice will be/ the meadows of Elysium") that drive the book. In between, scenes from a contemporary life (" `You girls,' my mother said, `should marry / someone like your father' ") parallel the unfolding myth, with Demeter coming to represent the body's desire to remain unchanged, or untouched, by love or death. That it turns out to be impossible is just another of the dilemmas brilliantly and unflinching dramatized in this icy, intense book. Empathic and unforgiving, the voice that unifies Persephone's despondent homelessness, Demeter's rageful mothering and Hades's smitten jealousy is unique in recent poetry, and reveals the flawed humanity of the divine. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

In the quietly assured voice one would expect of a Pulitzer Prize winner (for Wild Iris), Glück refreshes the myth of Persephone. No fancy language here, just absolute precision-the world "bleached, like a negative; the light passed/ directly through it"-that captures contemporary anguish in an ancient and enduring frame. (LJ12/05)

—Barbara Hoffert
Library Journal
Poet laureate Gluck's new work is not just heartbreaking, playful, mythical, and lyric poetry of the highest order-it is visionary literature. The title poem (particularly its first section) is one of the best pieces Gluck-or, for that matter, anyone writing in English today-has produced; it will break your heart every time you read it but also affirm you in the toughest moments. Hundreds of teachers across the country (including this reviewer) will be sharing it with their students. Few American authors have written eloquently about old age, but Gluck, now in her sixties, does a splendid job ("I can finally say/ long ago; it gives me considerable pleasure"), investigating matters of the soul ("I put the book aside. What is a soul?") as it finds itself within an increasingly frail body and yet remains unrepentant ("You die when your spirit dies./ Otherwise you live"). As with almost all of Gluck's recent collections, this book is a single sequence, where the poems work together making a whole: an aging soul's lyrical book of days. Once again, the author is obsessed with myth: this time she focuses on Persephone and the landscape of Averno, a small crater lake that the ancient Romans saw as the entrance to the underworld. But what makes this new collection so special is that its most successful poems combine two very different elements of her previous collections-the playful tone of Meadowlands and the illuminating moments of Vita Nova-that rarely coexist in poetry and have never before come together as smoothly and effortlessly in Gluck's own work as they do here. When Gluck takes a broader look, the scope can be truly epical; when she looks inward you can sometimes hear your own voice. And her tenderness is breathtaking ("to hear the quiet breathing that says/ I am alive, that means also /you are alive, because you hear me"). Strongly recommended for all poetry collections.-Ilya Kaminsky, Writer in Residence, Phillips Exeter Acad., Exeter, NH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
Praise for Louise Glück:

"There are a few living poets whose new poems one always feels eager to read. Louise Gluck ranks at the top of the list. Her writing's emotional and rhetorical intensity are beyond dispute. Not once in six books has she wavered from a formal seriousness, an unhurried sense of control and a starkness of expression that, like a scalpel, slices the mist dwelling between hope and pain." —David Biespiel, The Washington Post

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374530747
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 2/20/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 353,337
  • Product dimensions: 8.04 (w) x 5.48 (h) x 0.29 (d)

Meet the Author

Louise Glück has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Bollingen Prize, and is the former Poet Laureate of the United States. She teaches at Yale University and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

The night migrations 1
October 5
Persephone the wanderer 16
Prism 20
Crater Lake 28
Echoes 29
Fugue 31
The evening star 39
Landscape 40
A myth of innocence 50
Archaic fragment 52
Blue rotunda 53
A myth of devotion 58
Averno 60
Omens 70
Telescope 71
Thrush 72
Persephone the wanderer 73
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Poetry

    Oh I love it. Something about it on the store bookshelf made me pick it up and now I've fallen in love. This is poetry like I could never dream of writing. It is strong and lasting. A few of these poems made it into my all time favorite poem journal. Very searching, very honest. Five stars!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2008

    Lake Avernus

    I took my copy of this book with me when I visited the Naples area last year and visited Lake Avernus (Averno). Ms. Gluck's poetry is some of the most evocative and moving I have ever read. I recommend it most highly. It manages to be both ethereal and earthy at the same time, clear, honest and unsentimental. She is a most remarkable poet.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2006

    A Passage to the Depth of Living

    Louise Gluck is a pulitzer prize winning poet worthy of the ranks of our great 21st century poets. She is deep and detailed, beautiful and inviting, emotional and challenging. In a lovely landscape such as Italy, Averno is proof that we get better with age, as Louise Gluck's writing only seems to get more spectacular. It is a breath of fresh air to find an author such as her. Another book that is compatible with Averno is by an Italian-American author, Michele Geraldi, and it is titled Calling in the Night. It too is deep and inpsiring poems (with some short stories and essays). I feel grateful to have found these books to warm me during this long, cold winter.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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