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Likely Stories : Meadowlands, by Louise Glück

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry.

Louise Elisabeth Glück was born April 22, 1943 in New York City.  She is a poet, essayist, and a professor.  She has numerous awards including a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature.  Her poetry inspired me during my MFA in poetry and short fiction.

Her poetry is sublime, thoughtful, amusing, and worth every moment spent with her works.  I will start with “Quiet Evening” – You take my hand; then we’re alone in the life-threatening forest. / Almost immediately we’re in a house; Noah’s grown and moved away; the clematis after ten years suddenly flowers white. / More than anything in the world I love these evenings when we’re together, / the quiet evenings in summer, / the sky still light at this hour. / So Penelope took the hand of Odysseus, / not to hold him back but to impress this peace on his memory: / from this point on, / the silence through which you move is my voice pursuing you (5).  I especially love her poems about Odysseus, Penelope, and Telemachus.

“Ithaca” – The beloved doesn’t need to live. / The beloved lives in the head. / The loom is for the suitors, strung up like a harp with white shroud-thread. / He was two people. / He was the body and the voice, / the easy magnetism of a living man, / and then the unfolding dream or image shaped by the woman working the loom, / sitting there in a hall filled with literal-minded men. / As you pity the deceived sea that tried to take him away forever and took only the first, / the actual husband, / you must pity these men: / they don’t know what they are looking at; / they don’t know that when one loves this way the shroud becomes a wedding dress (12).  The next short poem is “Telemachus’ Detachment” – When I was a child looking at my parents’ lives, / you know what I thought? / heartbreaking. / Now I think heartbreaking, / but also insane. / Also very funny (13). 

Next is “Parable of the Dove” – A dove lived in a village. / When it opened its mouth sweetness came out, / sound like a silver light around the cherry bough. / But the dove wasn’t satisfied. / It saw the villagers gathered to listen under the blossoming tree. / I didn’t think: I am higher than they are. / It wanted to walk among them, / to experience the violence of human feeling, / in part for its song’s sake. / So it became human. / It found passion, / it found violence, / first conflated, / then as separate emotions and these were not contained by music. / Thus its song changed, / the sweet notes of its longing to be human soured and flattened. / Then the world drew back; / the mutant fell from love as from the cherry branch, / it fell stained with the bloody fruit of the tree. / So it is true after all, / not really a rule of art: / change your form and you change your nature. / And time does this to us. (32).

These selections barely manage to begin to come to an understanding of these marvelous poems.   Louise Elisabeth Glück’s Meadowlands, are worth the hours spent with them. 5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production or KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and Happy Reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.