NaPoMo QOTD Louise Glück Doesn't Want You to Know About This Poem. Doesn't That Make You Want to Read It?

"...stars everywhere, like in the river, though these were the real stars,
even the dead ones were real.

But the ones in the river-
...not real, maybe, but somehow more lifelike."
- At the River by Louise Glück* (PoLau '03-'04, Special Bicentennial Consultant in Poetry '99-'00)

Louise Glück is one of my favorite poets. She writes beautifully. I had an incredible amount of respect for her prior to this project, but I must confess, it has waned. I didn't know anything about her, just that I loved her poetry. Now I know that she refuses to do interviews, promote poetry, and she used to refuse to eat. I am mildly offended that she has described herself as having "no concern with widening audience." Maybe I shouldn't have included her at all in this, but I think that poetry is more important than the poet, so I did.

Although Glück is disgusted by the idea of gaining popularity, her poetry needs to be read. I think that she is disrespecting her work and simultaneously shirking her most basic duty as a Poet Laureate. Even if she doesn't want any interlopers reading her poems, she should still encourage the reading of poetry as a whole. The fact that she thinks her personal feelings (read: insecurities) about her own work trumps the life of the poem is absurd and self-centered. If you give a poem to the world, give it to the world. Don't be greedy with your words. I had a theater professor, Mrs. Mac, that gave me the best piece of writing advice. (She meant it for acting, but cross-application is great.) She said, "Rip your heart out, and while it's bleeding, show it to the audience." The part she didn't say is that, the audience is looking at you. They're looking at your heart. Louise Glück needs to hear that, I think. In the meantime, go read her poetry. Even though she doesn't want you to.

Homework Assignment:
Share something. Anything. A poem. A story. Your car. Whatever. Just open yourself up a little bit.

*From The Poets Laureate Anthology, published by W.W. Norton in association with the Library of Congress. Poem copyright Louise Glück.

Comments

Mylène said…
Jerusha (lovely to have you here), I love Gluck's poems, too, and have to leave it at that, or go a little mad. Emily Dickinson didn't share her poems (much), but she was never Poet Laureate; the over-sharing we often experience in our culture sometimes makes me long for a more selective sharing, and wonder about the value of restraint. But then, if anything, some writers (like me) tend to err on the side of restraint, so it was good to hear your words today. Thank you.
Jerusha said…
There is so much over-sharing today! Even a car that has live audio feeds of facebook updates. The thing that kills me, though, is that she was in a position to do so much good and really help to advance her field and she chose not to. Although her poetry is amazing, I think she should have turned down the job if she fundamentally disagreed with it.
It makes me wonder what was really behind that decision, and what responsibilities the writer should have. The very nature of the Poet Laureate position is that it's malleable; perhaps it shouldn't be? Should there be a set of expectations that comes with it?

Some poets and writers are good at speaking and creating movements, but others are just good at being writers and poets. For poets especially, who tend not to be much in the public eye, I could understand the resistance to such a role--and maybe she felt she couldn't turn down such a prestigious award. Because, let's face it--it's not so much a job as a recognition.
And thanks so much for posting this--I'm going to be interviewing poets this month, and you are giving me lots of ideas for the interviews!
Joni Rodgers said…
I also love her poetry, and I'd like to ask her why she took the position of PoLau if she didn't want to do anything with it. I totally respect her hermit thing, but why rob someone else of the opportunity if you don't even care about it? Especially when so few women have had the chance to be there. It's disingenuous for her to say she got nothing out of it, because prestige, book sales and speaking $$ are inherent with this gig.
Jerusha said…
She says that having anorexia really trained her to be a poet because it gave her a discipline of steel. But, intense self-judgement and fear of outside judgement are also huge parts of eating disorders. I think this wall she's built between herself and the world's critical acceptance is a hangover from that. Accepting the job, but saying it didn't mean anything to her is like telling her she looks great and her replying, "that's so sweet, but these jeans make my ass look fat."

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