Louise Glück, who simply won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature, is our nice October poet. (Robert Frost could also be a distant second.) Contemplate the lyric “All Hallows,” from her assortment “The House on Marshland,” from 1975:
Does a extra sinister opening exist in literature? The hills “darken”—we don’t know the way darkish they’re, solely that they’ll get darker. The oxen with their yoke belong in a bitter form of nursery rhyme or fairy story; they sleep like obedient kids. In the meantime, a sentience gathers above the countryside’s ravaged bones. Glück arranges her particulars in neat, cautious stacks; within the subsequent line, sheaves are “piled on the roadside / amongst cinquefoil, because the toothed moon rises.” Regularly an area is cleared for a cool, sibyllic voice:
And a brand new character seems:
I usually go to Glück for her moods, which shift, inside poems and from poem to poem, however at all times appear pure and particular. In “All Hallows,” atmosphere predicts argument: after the shadowy hills and the empty fields, the pronouncement about “barrenness” confirms what we already know. By the point the girl materializes—with speaking seeds, of all issues—it’s virtually as if the ambiance is directing the motion, like a present carrying the speaker to a spot she didn’t intend to go to, a spot she may not have needed to go.
Seasons, our oldest metaphors, are additionally moods, buildings of feeling. Maybe that is why Glück turns to them, time and again, to divine the feel of our inside life. Within the poem “Twilight,” a person marks, outdoors his window, the “inexperienced issues adopted by golden issues adopted by whiteness.” In “The Wild Iris,” which gained the Pulitzer Prize in 1993, Glück research the expansion and decay of two gardens—her personal, in Vermont, and an allegorical, Eden-like enclosure. In “Nostos,” the window-gazer is a lady, musing about time and apple bushes, “as one expects of a lyric poet.” Readers may ask why one may count on a lyric poet to lash herself to the cycles of nature. Glück would declare to be refusing a fantasy. For her, the concept of escaping change is a type of romance—and romance, as she writes in her essay “Training of the Poet,” “is what I most wrestle to be freed from.”
The result’s an ascetic type, nicely suited to each evisceration and incantation. Glück mistrusts “music, that high quality of language which is felt to persist within the absence of rule”; it’s not stunning that she feels lured by the seasons, that are themselves guidelines, instantiations of cosmic order. October is only one instance. Each season ends, or dies, and so brushes elbows with Glück’s principal muse, her ally in opposition to the romance of everlasting life. “In spite of everything issues occurred to me / the void occurred to me,” says the God of “Finish of Summer time.” The void is at all times occurring to Glück, stalking her audio system via time, fantasy, and metaphor. The seeds in “All Hallows” evoke the story of the goddess Persephone, who ate six pomegranate seeds and was trapped within the underworld; her grief-stricken mom, Demeter, invented winter. Glück herself sounds like winter: chilly and extreme, however possessed of a stark magnificence. She is understood for ferocious etherings (“I mentioned you possibly can snuggle. That doesn’t imply / your chilly ft throughout my dick,” she writes in “Anniversary”) and for traces of seemingly inexhaustible depth. In “Celestial Music,” “The love of type is the love of endings”; in “Nostos,” famously, “We have a look at the world as soon as, in childhood. The remainder is reminiscence.”
In “Nostos,” the invocation of childhood issues, too. That’s as a result of the seasons are sometimes a method of imagining youth and age: one other preoccupation for Glück. In her lyric “Autumn,” from 2017, the speaker remembers a dialog along with her sister: “Life, my sister mentioned, / is sort of a torch handed now / from the physique to the thoughts.” This can be a variation on the top of “Nostos”: as kids, the sister appears to counsel, we expertise the world, and as adults our activity is to grasp it. However typically the transition—the migration of life’s richness from outdoors to inside, the hand-off of the torch—goes improper. Within the subsequent part, there’s a scent of smoke. “Outdated folks and hearth,” the sister feedback. “They burn their homes down.” The poem blinks ahead, and the speaker has a imaginative and prescient: “Stars gleaming over the water / The leaves piled, ready to be lit.” Lit by what? The speaker’s creativeness, maybe. The world ignites the mind, after which the mind returns the favor. This, too, is seasonal.
These days, I’ve turned to Glück, interpreter of seasons, to reconcile myself to the threats that include ahead movement. “Autumn,” regardless of its broadly mild perspective, murmurs with fear. “Fall was approaching”; “the solar was setting”; “How heavy my thoughts is”; “You could discover your footing.” Glück has at all times been a laureate of hazard; she has a sixth sense for dread’s fluctuations. That is particularly clear in “October (part I),” which tumbles via anxious questions, a cascade of disbelief: “Is it winter once more, is it chilly once more, / didn’t Frank simply slip on the ice, didn’t he heal.” Glück’s speaker has mended accidents and planted seeds, however her progress could have come undone. “Wasn’t my physique / rescued,” the speaker asks, or pleads. “Wasn’t it secure?”
“October (part I)” is a part of a book-length poem written within the aftermath of a nationwide disaster. (The volume was revealed in 2004.) The start of that disaster, Al Qaeda’s assault on the World Commerce Heart, occurred on one other fall day, with a heart-stoppingly clear sky; the lack of the towers haunts traces like: “I can’t hear your voice / for the wind’s cries, whistling over the naked floor.” As “October” begins, months or years have handed since some nice blow, and the return of trauma finds a determine within the revolving seasons. The speaker’s shock at nature’s indifference fuses with a form of survivor’s dream logic. The horrible factor has already occurred—how might or not it’s taking place once more?
That sentiment resonates in our current October, when catastrophe appears the rule, not the exception, and when time itself appears to have misplaced its bearings. (Didn’t we wash our fingers, didn’t we learn this headline?) Glück, whose artwork has at all times answered to a distant, virtually planetary reasoning, is now, surprisingly, driving a wave of political timeliness. She is a poet of interiors; of getting and shedding; of need and its regulation. “You need to know the way I spend my time?” certainly one of her audio system scoffs, sounding for all of the world like a fed-up quarantiner. “I stroll the entrance garden, pretending / to be weeding.”
For anybody who wants it, then, there exists inside Glück’s work a glossary of in the present day’s moods: rage, vulnerability, despair, gallows humor, irritation, loneliness, an aura of depth across the mundane. For Glück, these circuits of sensing and pondering—the inside seasons—enact a idea of life: we really feel earlier than we perceive, and we perceive little or no. There’s one thing implicating about a lot disembodied emotion, floating on the web page like climate. Glück is an impersonal poet, whose poems, assembling round you, really feel blindingly private, just like the seasons themselves. The impact isn’t precisely comforting, besides in the best way that being advised the reality could be comforting—as if the spouse, in “All Hallows,” reasonably than holding out her seeds, had merely defined that you’re caught within the turning and swept towards darkness.