Louise Glück: I Was Here
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Louise Glück: I Was Here book
Plath’s suicide, Larkin’s silence, and the stillness and hush of Stevens’ late poems demonstrate the difficulty of continuing to speak once the edge of the intelligible has consumed the attention of a poet. (Hardy could continue to write because he found it easier to turn away from those preoccupations which increasingly preoccupied Stevens, Larkin, and Plath.) Moreover, in the case of each of the poets I have discussed so far, the limits of speech have now converged with the absence opened by the poet’s actual death. (This is one of the ways in which history suffuses the fictive space of the lyric; it is impossible now to read Lowell’s poem “Obit” [Collected Poems 642] as one might have before he died.) Because these historical circumstances have so far imposed this artificial limit on my argument, I have chosen in my last chapter to consider a living poet, Louise Glück, who has engaged with questions of the unintelligible throughout a varied and prolific career. Her work demonstrates how interest in that category continues to shape contemporary poetic practice, even for a poet whose style conforms to a relatively conservative definition of lyric utterance. Her poems offer what I take to be one of the most probing, supple, and radical inquiries into the nature of lyric subjectivity, particularly its deep complicity with states of absence, loss, and (to quote the title of one of her essays) “disruption, hesitation, [and] silence.” In fact, as I will argue, subjectivity as mediated by Glücks lyrics is not a state at the border of human meaning so much as it is a condition infused with, sustained by, and constituted within a matrix of antithetical, incompatible, or unassimilable relations. It is through the discovery of its essential foreignness that her lyric voice arrives at its most complex and lasting achievement.