What is it like to sit in on a class with Louise Glück?

This post is a collection of random responses from a Q&A between Peter Cooley’s Creative Writing Class and Louise Glück (March 31). It should be noted that this posting is based on my observation notes and that I am not attempting to claim that Glück’s responses are direct quotes, but rather a paraphrase of her responses. Below are blurbs (in no particular order) from Glück on poetry and the nature of writing.

* I read William Carlos Williams when I feel I’m getting too intellectual, too austere. He is the tonic, the non-abstract, palpable, sensual world. An endless, wholesome corrective to what gets wrong with me.

* Once it’s on the page, it’s out of my control. (Glück on readers misinterpreting her poems)

* Often you will get under someone’s spell and you start to sound like them…I went through a period of imitating Rilke and Sylvia Plath’s Arial. When you seen an imitation (poem), you see two things:

1. stylistic ticks

2. what is not imitable

* When you decide to abandon something (a poem), you rape it…use what’s important (useable language) and put it in another poem. I rarely abandon things. They torment me until I get them into some kind of working shape. When they cease to torment you, then they are dead, but keep it because there may be useful lines or words you can salvage.

* I am surprised to have found after the age of 50, something that is speeding up instead of slowing down. (on her work)

* After periods of intense work, you get sick…there’s a physiological experience…a fall out finishing from working rapidly.

* My basic principle is that every writer should do what’s best for him/her that addresses anxiety. Anxiety does not help. For me, not deliberately trying to write everyday is the only way to keep my anxiety at bay.

* Most writers think of the future, thinking: What will I do now? Will I ever be able to get it right? How will I finish it?

* I am both distant and intimate in writing. I have no favorites in my work.

* I hate National Poetry day/month. It’s like Secretary’s Day.

* I have no fear that poetry will not survive. On the contrary, MFA programs say it’s proliferating. I have no wish that poetry be more popular than it is. The reader and writer are collaborating in a form that is extremely intimate. No other form does that. There is a connection between a voice and a mental voice and that has nothing to do with filling a stadium. That’s just rhetoric. A poem can make a spell; can exert the power and unshakable beauty of a spell. You just hear the sounds and think ahhhh! You know it’s a voice that’s saying stop where you are; be still. As a child I couldn’t understand it, but I could hear the music. I never had that experience in another form, except possibly in music, but I hear words better than music. Poetry will take care of itself. You can’t make it more popular.

* One writes out of dilemmas, not solutions (like a guidance counselor).

* A poet has a hunger to make art. You can’t tell where it’s going to come from.

* Whatever passion you have will feed your work, even if it’s watching TV.

***A special thanks to The Department of English and the Creative Writing Fund for bringing Louise Glück to Tulane University.

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