American Originality: Essays on Poetry by Louise Glück - review by Ange Mlinko

Ange Mlinko

Maverick Verse

American Originality: Essays on Poetry

By

Carcanet 208pp £14.99 order from our bookshop
 

When it was announced last October that Louise Glück had won the Nobel Prize in Literature, there was general amazement on two counts: first, that an American should win it so soon after Bob Dylan in 2016, and second, that an American poet should win it – a poet, no less, who was known for terse, sotto voce lyrics that draw a tight circle of intimacy around the subjects of eros and nostos. Her speech to the Swedish Academy is a condensed version of her credo, variations of which appear in almost all her talks and essays: ‘The poems to which I have, all my life, been most ardently drawn are poems … of intimate selection or collusion, poems to which the listener or reader makes an essential contribution, as recipient of a confidence or an outcry, sometimes as co-conspirator … In art of the kind to which I was drawn, the voice or judgement of the collective is dangerous.’

This is not the age to hold such beliefs; if you do, you understand that it is a minority position. Social media has bathed the minds of the young in the warm milk of ‘consensus’ and maverick thinking is now old-fashioned and possibly elitist. Glück’s stance against ‘stadium poets’ (I

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter