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A major career-spanning collection from the inimitable Nobel Prize-winning poet
For the past fifty years, Louise Glück has been a major force in modern poetry, distinguished as much for the restless intelligence, wit and intimacy of her poetic voice as for her development of a particular form: the book-length sequence of poems. This volume brings together the twelve collections Glück has published to date, offering readers the opportunity to become immersed in the artistry and vision of one of the world's greatest living poets.
From the allegories of The Wild Iris to the myth-making of Averno; the oneiric landscapes of The House on Marshland to the questing of Faithful and Virtuous Night - each of Glück's collections looks upon the events of an ordinary life and finds within them scope for the transcendent; each wields its archetypes to puncture the illusions of the self. Across her work, elements are reiterated but endlessly transfigured - Persephone, a copper beech, a mother and father and sister, a garden, a husband and son, a horse, a dog, a field on fire, a mountain. Taken together, the effect is like a shifting landscape seen from above, at once familiar and unspeakably profound.
Though Gl ck has held national fame since the late 1970s for her terse, pared-down poems, this first career-spanning collected may be the most widely noted, and the most praised, collected poems in some time. Here is the Pulitzer Prize winning The Wild Iris (1992), whose talking flowers encapsulated birth, death, loss, and hope; here are the starkly framed family memories of her controversial Ararat (1990), and the careful, self-accusing humor of late work such as The Seven Ages (2001). Here, too, are the stormy, almost overexposed poems (reminiscent of Robert Lowell) with which she began, and the calmly uncompromising universals of A Village Life (2009), where "the mountain stands like a beacon, to remind the night that the earth exists." Through screens of familiar stories (Achilles, Penelope, Dante) or through overt albeit terse autobiography, Gl ck at once scrutinizes her own life and reflects on the process by which poems get made, the way that we, too, may come to know ourselves: "Like everyone else," she reflects, "I had a story,/ a point of view.// A few words were all I needed:/ nourish, sustain, attack." Turning life stories to myths; myths to cool, scary proverbs, Gl ck compares her style accurately to "bright light through the bare tree," her process of writing to spying, to silent listening: "In my own mind, I'm invisible that's why I'm dangerous."