Louise Gluck

(22 April 1943 / New York / United States)

Early Darkness

How can you say
earth should give me joy? Each thing
born is my burden; I cannot succeed
with all of you.

And you would like to dictate to me,
you would like to tell me
who among you is most valuable,
who most resembles me.
And you hold up as an example
the pure life, the detachment
you struggle to acheive--

How can you understand me
when you cannot understand yourselves?
Your memory is not
powerful enough, it will not
reach back far enough--

Never forget you are my children.
You are not suffering because you touched each other
but because you were born,
because you required life
separate from me.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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Read poems about / on: memory, children, joy, life, child

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Comments about this poem (Early Darkness by Louise Gluck )

  • Rookie - 37 Points Colleen Courtney (5/14/2014 9:16:00 PM)

    Find this poem invokes deep thoughts to ponder in the reader. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Dawn Fuzan (5/11/2014 8:16:00 AM)

    Nice one (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Michelle Easson (1/8/2014 1:35:00 AM)

    It is interesting, the choice of the term/word pedestrian to describe Gluck's work. The pedestrian mode of travel is on foot, walking-which slows one down and so also brings into relief what would be passed by, unnoticed. Gluck is not by any stretch 'pedestrian' in the sense of lacking in distinction or imagination. Nor is her work 'commonplace' or dull. What you may find objectionable in her work is her prevailing sense of disappointment and sometimes even bitter or brittle tone. Her work, particularly her earlier work, is loaded with reflection and rememberance of painful experience and conflicted emotional response to the world around her, both natural and familial/interpersonal.
    Her later work resonates with a greater sense of some acquired peace, or at least a resolve to come to terms with disappointment and the resentments that allowed or inspired her sometimes cutting observations. Her apparent efforts to integrate ambivalance and contradiction in her experience of the world seem to have taken a softer and more human and humane turn in the later work. But hers is a journey of an individual of great intelligence and sensitivity in which there is a mellowing and more empathic perspective one can discern in reading her poetry chronologically. Her precision and attention to form could be seen as a counterpoint to the dismay she reveals over the imperfections she finds in human relationships and certainly seems to express in a personal self-loathing or perhaps even depression or despair. There is more joy and more to appreciate in many ways in the later poems than there may be in those written earlier in her life.
    Her poems, even those in which her tone is cutting and sometimes sarcastic in tone, are still observant and intelligent and yes, human, even if they are filled with grief and disappointment. It is challenging to consider them as prosaic, as they are not predictable and/or dull, even if they are depressing in tone and though they are written with undeniable precision and attention to form, they are neither strictly academic or pandering to the MFA factory system. (In which, just as an aside, one learns to spell words like education correctly) . One can't (or should not) blame her for her Columbia University education, just as one should not complain of her confessional subject matter that requires much of her readers and yet also offers much in terms of rhythm and lyrical quality and self-reference that translates into moving and revealing archetypes one might recognize if one is just willing to walk her walk along with her. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Anna Wrobel (10/21/2013 1:51:00 PM)

    I am surprised at how pedestrian so many of Gluck's poems are. Not a fan of confessional poetry, I do appreciate the poetry of relationship, identity and existence. I have, however, read and heard poetry from local poets in my region that resonate so much more deeply and shine with meaning based on lived experience and astute observation expressed in language alternating between the simplicity and complexity of living. I frankly do not understand all of the awards and prizes and laureate status. I don't know if Gluck is a product purely of academia and the creative writing mass production MFA factory system (where big bucks spent on eduction must be rewarded with prizes in order to justify big bucks continuing to be spent on such programs) , but she seems to at least prefigure that realm. If the poems presented here and on other poetry sites do not represent her true gifts, then why not present the poems that do? Not all that impressed. I think I'll stick to some of the poets I have known in New York and the Midwest and now in northern New England if seeking poetry that really gets at language in truly creative as well as simply human ways. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Walter Durk (2/3/2007 10:36:00 AM)

    This is a wonderful poem about the relationship of our origin to humans. Louise Gluck has personified the origin here in a simple manner befitting of a great poet.
    Her careful choice and arrangement of words creates a 'spoken to' effect. (Report) Reply

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