A Village Life, Louise Glück's eleventh collection of poems, begins in the topography of a village, a Mediterranean world of no definite moment or place:
All the roads in the village unite at the fountain.
Avenue of Liberty, Avenue of the Acacia Trees—
The fountain rises at the center of the plaza;
on sunny days, rainbows in the piss of the cherub.
Around the fountain are concentric circles of figures, organized by age and in degrees of distance: fields, a river, and, like the fountain's opposite, a mountain. Human time superimposed on geologic time, all taken in at a glance, without any undue sensation of speed.
Glück has been known as a lyrical and dramatic poet; since Ararat, she has shaped her austere intensities into book-length sequences. Here, for the first time, she speaks as "the type of describing, supervising intelligence found in novels rather than poetry," as Langdon Hammer has written of her long lines—expansive, fluent, and full—manifesting a calm omniscience. While Glück's manner is novelistic, she focuses not on action but on pauses and intervals, moments of suspension (rather than suspense), in a dreamlike present tense in which poetic speculation and reflection are possible.
Pulitzer Prize winner Gl ck's 11th collection is set in an unidentified rural hill town somewhere in the Mediterranean. Less narrative than it is impressionistic, the book takes its undulating shape from natural cycles the obvious but nonetheless awesome impact of days and seasons changing. Gl ck has shown herself to be an astute, heartbreaking and often funny observer of everyday violence. In poems like "At the River" and "Marriage," she tracks life's messy movement from innocence and curiosity through lust, loss, anger and resignation. However, the relationships she studies are as much to the land with its single, looming mountain, worked fields and increasingly dried-up river as between individuals. Gl ck's achievement in this collection is to show, through the exigencies of the place she has chosen, how interpersonal relationships are formed, shaped and broken by the particular landscape in which they unfurl. Though the poems are intimate and deeply sympathetic, there remains the suggestion of a distance between Gl ck and the village life she writes about. When she declaims, "No one really understands/ the savagery of this place," it feels as though she is speaking less about her chosen subjects than about herself.