Poetry News

Soken Graf Explores Louise Glück’s American Originality

By Harriet Staff
Louise Gluck, American Originality, cover

At The Millions, read Soken Graf's take on Louise Glück's new book of essays about poetry called American Originality. "As a Buddhist priest," Graf writes, "I find in Louise Glück’s American Originality words for an increasingly bewildered and besotted country—a series of meditations on poetry’s power to orient, understand, heal, celebrate, and preserve the self’s 'Individual, irreplaceable, human voice.'" From there: 

1. America in Situ

Gluck’s America is “famously, a nation of escaped convicts, younger sons, persecuted minorities, and opportunists.”

Nursed on “images and narratives of self invention,” our invented selves are insecure. Stretched between the need for distinction on the one hand and corroboration on the other, Americans dart about, encumbered by a hustler-complex: “Under the brazen ‘I made up a self’ of the American myth, the sinister sotto voce, ‘I am a lie.’”

Thus the American is wonderfully original, aware of herself and her life as being both the origin—the place, the raw material from which she culls meaning—as well as the originator: the poet who mines herself, as it were, from nothing, to justify her purpose for being. This situation generates panic, as with Richard Siken, in whose poems (from Crush) “desperate garrulousness delays catastrophe…Everything is a trick…everything is art, technology—everything that is, can still change…”

Of those who face the apparently contradictory task of creating an original—primary and distinct—self while burdened by that self’s need for broad accord: “The [American] artist must look like a renegade and at the same time produce, whether by accident or design, an aesthetic commodity, a set of gestures instantly apprehended as new and also capable of replication.”

“The cost of this pressure,” says Glück, “has been immense.”

Read more at The Millions

Originally Published: June 14th, 2018