Last Monday night, the Kendall Cram room was packed just under 500 people, eagerly waiting to hear Louise Glück read selections from her latest work. The book will be out later in 2009.
Peter Cooley introduced Glück saying that “it is inconceivable to think of contemporary poetry without her.”
Glück, small in stature, was barely taller than the flower arrangement in front of her. However, she projected great intensity as she ascended the stage dressed in all black (and wearing combat boots).
Glück stepped up to the podium and said “I hate to travel, but I love this city. Consider yourselves fortunate to be in such an eccentric and marvelous place.” Before she launched into her reading, Glück commented briefly on the direction of her latest work. She described the difference between “vertical and horizontal” poetry (one navigates between two emotional states and the other is more like finger painting).
We found it interesting that Glück didn’t introduce any of her poems. In doing so, she transported the audience into an elevated mentality. It’s refreshing to not have every poem explained to you. Glück let her poetry speak for itself.
Some of the reoccurring themes in her work included fear of change (both physical and spiritual) and images collected from travel. Glück is more of an observer than a participant and her aim is not necessarily to speak to others, but rather to watch others and extract a poetic reality from her observations. She describes “a boy [she] was beginning to like, not to speak to, but to watch.”
We loved the way she takes such mundane and undervalued things and infuses them with greater meaning. For example, in Before the Storm, Glück describes a ram as being a “whole future” escaping. Even when dealing with weightier subject matter, she maintains comedic timing with the line “cats smell the wind, time to make more cats.”
She ended the reading much as she describes embers in her poem Burning Leaves “last sparks still resisting, unfinished.”