Thursday, November 27, 2014

Let Us Give Thanks for Louise Gluck, The National Book Award Winner in Poetry 2014

Faithful and Virtuous Nightthe latest collection of poems by Louise Gluck, is a National Book Award winner in poetry for 2014. A Pulitzer Prize honoree, Gluck dwells in the beautiful ambiguity that is poetry. She often contemplates loss, grief, and death. Her speakers suffer and endure. Here is one from a prior collection, one that may perhaps remind us to be grateful on this day.

April by Louise Gluck

No one's despair is like my despair--

You have no place in this garden
thinking such things, producing
the tiresome outward signs; the man
pointedly weeding an entire forest,
the woman limping, refusing to change clothes
or wash her hair.

Do you suppose I care
if you speak to one another?
But I mean you to know
I expected better of two creatures
who were given minds: if not
that you would actually care for each other
at least that you would understand
grief is distributed
between you, among all your kind, for me
to know you, as deep blue
marks the wild scilla, white
the wood violet. 

A wise, somewhat dispassionate speaker lays claim to despair that supercedes all others and their despair. This speaker, perhaps endowed with divine power, seems inclined to evict a man and a woman from the garden. They simply “have no place” there, “thinking such things” as they think, “deforesting” entire forests, “refusing” to demonstrate self-awareness and pride in clothing or hygiene.

The speaker declares that his or her expectation for those in the garden was greater; after all, they were “given minds” with which to understand, to comprehend that grief is a shared burden, not an isolated indulgence. Grief is as natural as the colors of flowers on the earth.

Naked Ladies, also known as the Belladonna Lily
So today, let us grant our shared humanity, our shared burden. Let us show compassion for one another even if we cannot speak to each other.

Reading Challenge:

Read any one of Louise Gluck’s poem, but take special note of those in her latest collection.

Writing Challenge:

Write an answer for the question: what might a god expect of his creations?