The Poetry of Louise Gluck: A Thematic Introduction

Louise Gluck has been the recipient of virtually every major poetry award and was named U.S. poet laureate for 2003-2004. Daniel Morris explores how this prolific poet utilizes masks of characters from history, the Bible, and even fairy tales. Morris treats Gluck's persistent themes - desire, hunger, trauma, survival - through close reading of her major book-length sequences from the 1990s: Ararat , Meadowlands , and The Wild Iris . An additional chapter devoted to The House on Marshland (1975) shows how its revision of Romanticism and nature poetry anticipated these later works. Morris reads Gluck poetry against a narrative pattern that shifts from the tones of anger, despair, and resentment found in her early Firstborn to the resignation of Ararat - and proceeds in her latest volumes, including Vita Nova and Averno , toward an ambivalent embrace of embodied life. By showing how Gluck's poems may be read as a form of commentary on the meanings of great literature and myth, Morris emphasizes her irreverent attitude toward the canons through which she both expresses herself and deflects her autobiographical impulse. By discussing her sense of self, of Judaism, and of the poetic tradition, he explores her position as a mystic poet with an ambivalent relationship to religious discourse verging on Gnosticism, with tendencies toward the ancient rabbinic midrash tradition of reading scripture. He particularly shows how her creative reading of past poets expresses her vision of Judaism as a way of thinking about canonical texts.