Louise Gluck sows the fertile subject ground of marital discord in harvesting this crop of gems. The poems zing back and forth as the verses alternate between man and woman. "Flaubert had more friends and Flaubert was a recluse" says he, followed by her response, "Flaubert was crazy; he lived with his mother," In one scene they argue over dead French writers; later they discuss football. Yet Gluck's work is more than a series of barbs. She writes in the nuances and language of a marriage, laid out against the voices of Odysseus and Penelope.
From Publishers Weekly
Gluck's seventh collection (following The Wild Iris, 1993's Pulitzer winner) interleaves vignettes of the Odyssey and a distressed modern marriage. Grimly serious parables, amusing but disquieting spousal conversations and insightful commentaries written in the voice of Telemachus, Odysseus's son, season the 46 poems. Assessing his parents' lives, Telemachus observes, "heartbreaking, but also/ insane. Also/ very funny." In "Anniversary," Gluck captures the particular cruelty made possible by intimacy: "Someone should teach you how to act in bed./ ...Look what you did?/ you made the cat move." In another, the depths of marital alienation are captured by a woman who weeps, holding a bag of garbage in an unlit garage at midnight: "...is this the way the heart/ behaves when it grieves: it wants to be alone with the garbage?" Despite humor, there is little joy. Gluck sees, in daily life as in Odysseus's heroic one, the "unanswerable/ affliction of the human heart: how to divide/ the world's beauty into acceptable/ and unacceptable loves." These compressed and tightly focused poems are organized into a short collection of exceptional punch.
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