Louise Glück Discusses Growing Up, Growing Old in Poetry Oration

Pulitzer Prize winning poet Louise Glück visited Andover last Friday to recite her latest collection of poems, entitled “A Village Life.” Glück kicked off the event by describing her childhood and early poetic impulses. Published in 2009, poems in “A Village Life” all focus on the faing of childhood, sexual awakening, family relationships and the seemingly timeless setting of the village. Glück recited nine poems in total. The readings commenced with a poem entitled “Tributaries,” which illustrates the importance of the village fountain. Glück ended with the title poem, “A Village Life,” in which she describes a day in the village. Following Glück’s readings, the event transformed into a question-and-answer session. Audience members inquired about the origins of Glück’s poem collection. Glück said she draws inspiration from her emotions and that her sentiments converged into a basis for the novelistic poetry in the book. “I don’t know how I get in that world or where it came from, but there’s always a dropped thread from a previous poem,” said Glück. “Once I heard a voice, there was a natural story that voice had to tell.” Glück said she believes that literature incites empathy. “[In poetry] we can feel outside our own, narrow, autobiographical narrative,” said Gluck. During the question and answer session, Glück discussed her life prior to becoming a full time poet. She said she held multiple secretarial duties throughout her life and worked as a teacher while writing her early works of poetry. Glück advised aspiring poets to follow passions other than writing first, since poems will eventually draw from life events. “I think that if you’re interested in being a writer and have a passion in something else, there’s no harm in experiencing it as deep as you can,” said Glück. “There are experiences that don’t immediately present themselves as important. Go where your life takes you, and something might eventually form.” During the event, Glück said that she prefers poetry in written form and that she disapproves of poetic oration. “I grew up with a mother who would read poems theatrically. I was outraged because I felt there was a lack of art,” said Glück. “Ideally, our poems will outlive us and have greater depth than we can approximate,” said Glück. Kevin O’Connor, Instructor in English, organized the event with financial aid from the Sandra Isham Vreeland Fund. The fund, dedicated to a former Phillips Academy student, brings a poet to campus every spring term. Guests in previous years include Li-Young Lee, Robert Pinsky and Billy Collins. O’Connor said that some poets are dramatic performers, but others’ true poetic depth lies in their written work. O’Connor characterized Glück as the latter. “Her poems are so subtle and multi-layered that it’s hard to simply walk in the room and get the full resonance,” said O’Connor. “Her own style is very unique. She reads in a dreamlike state.” Administrators of the Sandra Isham Vreeland Fund decided to bring Glück to campus because of her numerous achievements. “She is one of the most honored poets in this country, by consensus of the literary world,” said O’ Connor. “Of the great poets that we’ve had here, she stands toe-to-toe with any of them in terms of her accomplishments,” he added. Students who listened to Glück’s reading had mixed opinions. Billy Fowkes ’10 read some of Glück’s earlier works for his English class before attending the event. “I thought that her philosophy on how poems should be read was really interesting, but it just didn’t make for an exciting reading. I would call it interesting much more than entertaining,” said Fowkes. “It’s still cool to get to see such a famous poet in person like that though, especially to hear her discuss her work.” Glück has written 11 poetry books. Her works have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award, for “The Wild Iris,” along with Yale University’s Bollingen Prize and multiple other awards. Glück was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2003 to 2004 and currently works as the Rosencranz Writer in Residence at Yale University.