WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – The Monmouth University Library Association sponsored this past Thursday’s Visiting Writer series with special Pulitzer Prize winner, Louise Glück. A crowd of students, faculty, and fans from outside the University came together in Pollak Theatre to hear the poet read some of her award winning poems.
Dr. Mary Kate Azcuy introduced Glück and her award winning pieces. “[Glück’s poems] move beyond silence and become poems that haunt.” She further went on to describe them as “revenge against circumstances.”
Glück’s work, as ascertained by critics and readers over the decades, describes the human experience through love, joy, and hope, as well as loss and betrayal. Acuzy also described the poet as, “Not the confessional poet of Plath or Sexton, but the lyric poet of our day and age.”
Gluck proceeded to do a series of readings from her works. In describing her poems, she stated that some of them need to be read in a more complete context in order to understand them. “They have no beauty individually,” she said. Other poems deal with the issues of disaster and tragedy. For example, her poem “October” was written after the catastrophe of 9/11. “They’re not political though,” Gluck said, “But rather, they are intimate and private—a response.”
Many of Glück’s poems are inspired by Mythology and are clearly evident in her work. One of her books, Meadowlands, retells the Odyssey from contemporary characters based off the original ones. She also deals heavily with the concepts of death and loss. “I’ve been writing about death for 50 years. How can you be human and see the earth and not be shocked that one day it will all be taken away?”
Victoria Rivera, a Senior at Monmouth and aspiring poet, shared her impressions from the event. “Her writing style was somewhat like mine. The most impact of her poetry is at the end in the final lines that leaves you with the lingering taste of the themes of her poetry like death, patience, and mythology.”
Rivera went on to discuss some of the highlights from the writer’s talk. “I loved how she took the perspective from the outside [the flowers] and had them talk to…humans about their problems, then having the humans stating their problems, and finally having a celestial being look down on all of it and say ‘I told you so’ in the voice of a mother.”
After Glück read for approximately forty minutes, she held a question and answer session with the audience. When one audience member asked for advice to aspiring writers, Glück answered, “Be patient, be tough, and find readers who hold you to the highest standard and will scrutinize your work.” In a single word she summed up her advice:“Courage.”
Glück was also asked about her interaction with the late poet John Berryman. “He [Berryman] was my hero. I wanted to say to (him) that I revered (how) he was (such) a great artist.” However, Berryman was known for his discomfort by compliments. “I could not pay him the homage I waned to,” Glück reflected.
Discussing her influences, Glück listed some popular poets such as Blake and Yates, but she also mentioned her most current ones as well.
“These days, I’m influenced (by) young poets. I want to hear a sound I haven’t heard yet. Something about the new and fresh is invigorating to me.”
After the session, the poet stayed around to sign books for her fans. Rivera, who was also on line to meet the poet, was happy to share her final thoughts. “This was the first time I’ve heard her and I want to read more. I heard a lot of myself in her writing and I need to explore it further. She’s one of my new favorites!”
Video by Will Brucella.