The Feminine Mythtique

“It is snowing on earth; the cold wind says

Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn’t know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.”

—Louise Glück, Averno

I finally started reading the new Glück book last night and found it strange but still pretty wonderful. Glück, always sort of cold and exacting in her work (yet endlessly emotional, I’d say), here turns more toward the rhetoric of essay to explore issues of winter, love, family, marriages. I’m only through the first section but it was so fascinating how she seamlessly weaves between the High Myth of Persephone and Hades and this other, seemingly pesonal narrative of love. (And I don’t mean to imply that this other narrative is Glück’s own voice, of course, just that it, unlike the myth, originates from a distinct voice.)

I love Glück when she’s like this. My favorite book of hers is Meadowlands, where the matrimonial rift between Odysseus and Penelope widens into a contemporary cold war of hearts between estranged spouses. I wish I had it in front of me because I would love to quote for you the poem in which the wife complains of the husband’s cold feet in the bed. It’s classic.

I’m not sure if Glück has worked before in long form as she does here—perhaps not to the extent she does here, then. The Wild Iris is a book-length sequence, yes, but these poems in Averno, while thematically linked, feel more individual even as they extend for pages, sometimes in numbered sections.

I think Glück is nothing if not a fascinating poet.

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