Poetry of Louise Gluck: A Thematic Introduction

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Overview

A dominant figure in American poetry for more than thirty-five years, Louise Glück has been the recipient of virtually every major poetry award and was named U.S. poet laureate for 2003–2004. In a new full-length study of her work, Daniel Morris explores how this prolific poet utilizes masks of characters from history, the Bible, and even fairy tales.
            Morris treats Glück’s persistent themes—desire, hunger, trauma, survival—through close reading of her major book-length sequences from the 1990s: Ararat, Meadowlands, and The Wild Iris. An additional chapter devoted to The House on Marshland (1975) shows how its revision of Romanticism and nature poetry anticipated these later works. Seeing Glück’s poems as complex analyses of the authorial self via sustained central metaphors, Morris reads her poetry against a narrative pattern that shifts from the tones of anger, despair, and resentment found in her early Firstborn to the resignation of Ararat—and proceeds in her latest volumes, including Vita Nova and Averno, toward an ambivalent embrace of embodied life.
By showing how Glück’s poems may be read as a form of commentary on the meanings of great literature and myth, Morris emphasizes her irreverent attitude toward the canons through which she both expresses herself and deflects her autobiographical impulse. By discussing her sense of self, of Judaism, and of the poetic tradition, he explores her position as a mystic poet with an ambivalent relationship to religious discourse verging on Gnosticism, with tendencies toward the ancient rabbinic midrash tradition of reading scripture. He particularly shows how her creative reading of past poets expresses her vision of Judaism as a way of thinking about canonical texts.
            The Poetry of Louise Glück is a quintessential study of how poems may be read as a form of commentary on the meanings of great literature and myth. It clearly demonstrates that, through this lens of commentary, one can grasp more firmly the very idea of poetry itself that Glück has spent her career both defining and extending.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This original, welcome, and exciting approach to Glück’s work will be of lasting importance and merit to all future study of this poet.”—Jonathan N. Barron, coeditor of Jewish American Poetry: Poems, Commentary, and Reflections

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826216939
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Edition description: bibliography, index
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Morris is Professor of English at Purdue University. He is the author of several books, including The Writings of William Carlos Williams: Publicity for the Self (University of Missouri Press), Remarkable Modernisms: Contemporary American Authors on Modern Art, and Bryce Passage.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
Abbreviations     xi
Introduction     7
Thematic Keywords
"Poems Are Autobiography": Toward Imagining a Postconfessionalist's Biography     21
Dedicated to Hunger: A Poetics of Desire     36
Visions and Revisions: Commentary and the Question of Being a Contemporary Jewish Poet     60
The Wound in the Word: Trauma Theory and the Question of Witness     98
Challenging Trauma Theory: Witnessing Divine Mystery     133
A Poet of the Book
The House on Marshland: Second Nature Writing and the Entrance into the Symbolic     151
Should I Say It with Flowers? Ararat and the Work of Mourning through Nature Poetry     178
Errand in the Spiritual Wilderness: The Wild Iris as Contemporary Prayer Sequence     191
Mythic Fragment: Sequence, Commentary, and the Composition of the Lyric Self through The Odyssey in Meadowlands     231
Works Cited     255
Index     265
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