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

Ange Mlinko

Maverick Verse

American Originality: Essays on Poetry


Carcanet 208pp £14.99

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

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