the love of poetry

The “good” thing about falling sick is that I can be stuck at home reading poetry.

Specifically, I went through the collected poems of 2020 Nobel laureate Louise Glück. I never registered that she had won the Nobel prize for literature - this poet that I associate with the American tradition of confessional poetry does not stand for a political cause, a traumatic national history, or an under-represented people. The Committee instead cites “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”. 

I guess it was apt in 2020. That year when COVID made everyone aware of our individual existence, that we all die alone, and made solitude necessary for survival. That was the year the world was too ill to fight wars with each other. 

Glück is “easy” to read. Take her 1990 book Ararat. Each poem is like an episode of a family drama - the writer, her dead sister, her surviving sister and their relationship with their parents, a constant tug between love and pain. The penultimate poem in that book is redemptive. I like it best. Titled “Celestial Music”, it speaks of the writer and her friend sitting by the side of the road. So much is contained in 6 stanzas. It ends with this line “The love of form is a love of endings” that makes me reread the poem. It is a book of love poems ultimately - to her family and herself. 

Her latest book Faithful and Virtuous Night (2014) has this short piece “The Horse and the Rider” that I enjoy because It reminds me of Borges. I reproduce it here:

    “Once there was a horse, and on the horse there was a rider. How handsome they looked in the autumn sunlight, approaching a strange city! People thronged the streets or called from the high windows. Old women sat among flowerpots. But when you looked about for another horse or another rider, you looked in vain. My friend, said the animal, why not abandon me? Alone, you can find your way here. But to abandon you, said the other, would be to leave a part of myself behind, and how can I do that when I do not know which part you are?”

Anyway, I haven’t felt compelled to draw for a while. But after I put the poems down this evening, I made this drawing.


pfong said…
Thanks you for sharing this. Cherry blossoms, fireworks, shooting stars; they are beautiful and they don't last. I try to feel grateful to have had the opportunity to share that beauty for a period.
ampulets said…
Thanks pfong! You are right that the ephemeral always seems more beautiful - its the romance of the moment and the dying - and we feel lucky to have shared their moment. And then there is also the unchanging beauty of the everyday moon, the everyday street, or the 20,000 year old canyon!

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