Sunday, August 30, 2009

William Logan on Louise Gluck

Louise Gluck's A Village Life (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009) is reviewed by William Logan in today's New York Times Book Review.* It is difficult to say which person (poet or critic) deserves the other more. Logan actually seems to like Gluck's poetry (his standard ratio of slams-to-compliments is reversed, standing in this review at approximately 1:2--I almost shouted "Hey, Mikey!").

Logan describes Louise Gluck's new book as "a subversive departure for a poet used to meaning more than she can say," a non-insight which strikes me as meaning less than it wants to.

But enough of William Logan; Louise Gluck wants our attention. At a respectful distance, of course.

Louise Gluck reminds me of Jorie Graham, in that while I find it necessary to read her work--and always learn something from her--I have never much liked her poetry. Gluck is an Apollonian for whom the moon is always waning; her poetry's preoccupation is with how others have failed to properly love and understand her. Because the world--because men, because all of us--so fail to meet Gluck's needs, it is difficult for an attentive reader not to become exasperated. One wants to say, "Hey, Louise, we're having a party over here, we're dancing; anytime you decide to join us, let us know."

One must finally turn away from the humorless girl in the self-enameled corner, holding her breath until she turns blue.

What is compelling--even riveting--about our work when we are 26 can become tedious when we are 66.


*‘Nothing Remains of Love,’ by William Logan, a review of Village Life by Louise Gluck, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, (2009), New York Times Book Review, August 27, 2009.


Blogger Macy Swain said...

Amusing and pertinent response, Greg. I especially enjoy your comment about the party and the dancing. As I commented on a buddy's FB post lately, Logan's review made me remember her readings at WW when I was there -- as I said there, after mopping up our tears from her extravagantly morose readings we'd all rush out and start pounding down Prozac, Bushmills, ecstasy -- whatever. She's the Duchess of Disappointment, the Matron of Melancholy, the Sultana of Sadness.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Radish King said...

What is compelling--even riveting--about our work when we are 26 can become tedious when we are 66.

I've never read much of her work because it makes me want to kill myself, but the above statement is the meat of it, the meat of the whole shebang, if shebangs indeed have meat and not confetti or needles inside them. I'm not sure. I mean it's core it's central to any artist except perhaps some interpretive artists such as dancers who just get too old, whose bodies give up.

I mostly feel the opposite about poets and artists (and musicians.) I find the very young don't have much life experience and not all that much to say so they defer to crows and herons or lots of fucking in their poems or constant referral to older or dead poets who knew what they were doing because they lived and entire life.

I think the tediousness to which you refer is simply laziness, a tendency to sit one's laurels once one has reached a certain level of
fame or notoriety or even if one has failed and given up. And if a poet is using the same old tricks at 66 that she was using at 26, then yes, it would become tedious because it would seem the poet had stopped making choices or taking chances in his or her work which has nothing to do with age, and has everything to do with laziness or simply not caring anymore.

Dang, this is strong coffee.


wv: dipthe

11:46 AM  
Blogger Nin Andrews said...

I like your review--and the comments posted--better! Yes, I agree 100%.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

I have to say I still find Gluck's poetry compelling and even riveting. It's true my favorite poems of hers are probably those in her early books, poems she may have disowned herself by now, like "Gretel in Darkness": But I still find at least a couple poems that knock me out in each of her newer books, too.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Keith Wilson said...

Radish King; I completely disagree that young poets write poorly because they lack life experience. I have an entire blog about it, so I will spare you, but I think it has more to do with knowledge of the craft than experience with life.

That said, I really enjoyed this blog entry. It's made even more funny, to me, because I recently read a poem on Slate by Gluck precisely about all the dancing going on that she is not participating in, if I am remembering it correctly.

5:25 PM  
Blogger Collin Kelley said...

The fact that Logan likes anything -- even sparingly -- always makes me suspect. Gluck has been hit or miss for me for years. I haven't read A Village Life, but I will at some point. A little melancholy for the autumn never hurt.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Matthew Thorburn said...

I agree with your take on Gluck's poems, Greg. I'm going to go hear her read when she comes to the 92nd Street Y, to see if I can figure out what I've been missing in her work. It hasn't ever done that much for me, though lots of people (even William Logan, apparently) like it. I always suspect I'm missing something, though maybe it's something in my own temperment. I tend to get impatient (exasperated) with her tone and preoccupations, and agree with Logan on her limited descriptive language. I haven't read the new book, but I believe I've seen a handful of the poems from it in various journals.

On a lighter note, how weird to see Logan actually liking something, at least sort of. And like Nin, I like your review better than Logan's!

10:02 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

Don't know much about poetry, as the song goes. It grabs me or it doesn't. I have all her books and while I don't love every poem in every book, there are enough great ones to keep me coming back.

Not everyone wants to join the same dance, after all.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

She is a POET for cryin' out loud. How many good, happy poets are there? Read The Wild Iris if you want her best.

10:26 PM  

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