For more than 40 years, Louise Glück has been publishing poetry that pierces through life’s quotidian details into deeper veins of meaning. Her themes brood upon loneliness, divorce, and death, leaving little respite from the darker features of existence. Yet, there is in her depiction of nature a sense of the doubleness of life: its goodness alongside its fading temporality.
In one of her five-stanza narratives, entitled “Averno,” Glück scans the horizon to find meaning within the world, as her narrator comes alongside children, other young people, and a few aged fellow travelers. Yet, by the time she arrives at her final stanza, Nature’s fecundity has left the narrator puzzling, for it fails to take stock of human memory:
Such scenes of reflection are plentiful in Glück’s work, and, they are bound to leave the reader brooding on deeper questions. Her technical acumen is apparent in every line, so rest assured that you are in the hands of a craftsman. And, as Walt Hunt explains in his Atlantic review, “the ultimate point, in Glück, is not despair or resignation, but the abandonment of a ‘wish to return,’ whether to a first garden, a first view of the earth, an origin story, or an undamaged relation to the world.”
Over the years, Glück has been honored with numerous awards, including PEN, Pulitzer, Bollinger, a National Humanities Medal, and a Gold Medal for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Then, just last Thursday, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, celebrating a lifetime of achievement. In the words of the Nobel Committee, Glück possesses an “unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”
Perhaps now would be as good a time as any to discover (or re-discover) Glück’s gift with language and her vision of a world shot-through with wonder: “As though the sun blinded you for a moment.”