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The Seven Ages
     

The Seven Ages

by Louise Glück
 

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Louise Glück has long practiced poetry as a species of clairvoyance. She began as Cassandra, at a distance, in league with the immortal; to read her books sequentially is to chart the oracle's metamorphosis into unwilling vessel, reckless, mortal, and crude. The Seven Ages is Glück's ninth book, her strangest and most bold. In it she stares down

Overview

Louise Glück has long practiced poetry as a species of clairvoyance. She began as Cassandra, at a distance, in league with the immortal; to read her books sequentially is to chart the oracle's metamorphosis into unwilling vessel, reckless, mortal, and crude. The Seven Ages is Glück's ninth book, her strangest and most bold. In it she stares down her own death, and, in so doing, forces endless superimpositions of the possible on the impossible — an act that simultaneously defies and embraces the inevitable, and is, finally, mimetic. Over and over, at each wild leap or transformation, flames shoot up the reader's spine.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
This melancholic collection from the highly esteemed American poet will not disappoint fans of her austerely beautiful, richly analytic style. This latest collection, her ninth, is darker than some of her earlier works, however, and readers new to Glück may prefer to start with her 1993 Pulitzer Prize–winning collection, The Wild Iris.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Since the mid-1970s, critics and readers have admired Glück's spare, deceptively simple style; her poems subject the autobiographical, even confessional impulse to analytical rigor, arranging soul-searching questions and symbols into sequences frequently modeled on famous old texts the Odyssey or the biblical Creation. The stark intensities and challenging questions in Glück's ninth book of poems investigate the disappointments, unfinished quests and unanswered questions that compose, arrange and ruin a life Glück's own, for example, and that of her older sister, who plays the pivotal role husbands and parents have played in some of her previous work. Glück dares her readers to ask, as they might have in childhood, general, harrowing questions: "Why do I suffer? Why am I ignorant?" She dares herself, as well, to live without answers: "I'm awake; I am in the world / I expect/ no further assurance." Careful scenes, queries and moments of self-analysis throughout the volume investigate time the ways in which we change in the course of a lifetime; the ways our minds change from moment to moment; and the ways in which time changes everything, creating "a world in process/ of shifting, of being made or dissolved,/ and yet we didn't live that way." Considering age and aging, summer and fall, "stasis" and constant loss, Glück's new poems often forsake the light touch of her last few books for the grim wisdom she sought in the 1980s; at the same time, her lines on herself, young and old, and on these stages for her sister and herself, are frequently wise, densely crafted meditations on the odd possibility of "actual human growth." (Apr.) Forecast: Glück won a Pulitzer, and a wider audience, with The Wild Iris (1993); subsequent explorations of more comic and casual modes have met mixed response. Last year's Vita Nova, however, was recently awarded the biannual Bollingen prize (including $50,000 cash) given by Yale University Library in honor of a recently published American collection which should generate sales for both books. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
"Ashes, disappointment" breathes one poem in this latest collection from Pulitzer Prize winner Gl ck (The Wild Iris), and indeed the tone of this entire collection is melancholic. The narrator frequently appears as a sort of seraphic messenger, send "back to the world" and none too happy about it: this is a place of hunger and desire, of the need to possess and the distress of never quite doing so. Many of the poems have the feel of fairy tales or fables (one is even called "Fable"); poems about the poet's childhood, frequently featuring her sister, are more earthbound and prosaic. As always, Gl ck demonstrates incredible craft; this is assured and quietly beautiful poetry. The incessant twilight can wear, however; when a poem complains "We read, we listened to the radio./ Obviously this wasn't life," one is tempted to mutter, "Well, what is?" For most contemporary collections. Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060933494
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/28/2002
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
80
Sales rank:
622,070
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Seven Ages

In my first dream the world appeared
the salt, the bitter, the forbidden, the sweet
In my second I descended

I was human, I couldn't just see a thing
beast that I am

I had to touch, to contain it

I hid in the groves,
I Worked in the fields until the fields were bare—

time
that will never come again—
the dry wheat bound, caskets
of figs and olives

I even loved a few times in my disgusting human way

and like everyone I called that accomplishment
erotic freedom,
absurd as it seems

The wheat gathered and stored, the last
fruit dried: time

that is hoarded, that is never used,
does it also end?

In my first dream the world appeared
the sweet, the forbidden
but there was no garden, only
raw elements

I was human:
I had to beg to descend

the salt, the bitter, the demanding, the preemptive

And like everyone, I took, I was taken
I dreamed

I was betrayed:

Earth was given to me in a dream
In a dream I possessed it

Meet the Author

Louise Glück won the Pulitzer Prize for The Wild Iris in 1993. The author of eight books of poetry and one collection of essays, Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry, she has received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, the William Carlos Williams Award, and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction. She was named the next U.S. poet laureate in August 2003. Her most recent book is The Seven Ages. Louise Glück teaches at Williams College and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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