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A Village Life: Poems [Paperback]

Louise Glück
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 14, 2010 0374532435 978-0374532437 First Edition

A Village Life, Louise Glück’s eleventh collection of poems, begins in the topography of a village, a Mediterranean world of no definite moment or place:

 

All the roads in the village unite at the fountain.

Avenue of Liberty, Avenue of the Acacia Trees—

The fountain rises at the center of the plaza;

on sunny days, rainbows in the piss of the cherub.

—from “tributaries”

 

Around the fountain are concentric circles of figures, organized by age and in degrees of distance: fields, a river, and, like the fountain’s opposite, a mountain. Human time superimposed on geologic time, all taken in at a glance, without any undue sensation of speed.

Glück has been known as a lyrical and dramatic poet; since Ararat, she has shaped her austere intensities into book-length sequences. Here, for the first time, she speaks as “the type of describing, supervising intelligence found in novels rather than poetry,” as Langdon Hammer has written of her long lines—expansive, fluent, and full—manifesting a calm omniscience. While Glück’s manner is novelistic, she focuses not on action but on pauses and intervals, moments of suspension (rather than suspense), in a dreamlike present tense in which poetic speculation and reflection are possible.


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Pulitzer Prize–winner Glück's 11th collection is set in an unidentified rural hill town somewhere in the Mediterranean. Less narrative than it is impressionistic, the book takes its undulating shape from natural cycles—the obvious but nonetheless awesome impact of days and seasons changing. Glück has shown herself to be an astute, heartbreaking and often funny observer of everyday violence. In poems like At the River and Marriage, she tracks life's messy movement from innocence and curiosity through lust, loss, anger and resignation. However, the relationships she studies are as much to the land—with its single, looming mountain, worked fields and increasingly dried-up river—as between individuals. Glück's achievement in this collection is to show, through the exigencies of the place she has chosen, how interpersonal relationships are formed, shaped and broken by the particular landscape in which they unfurl. Though the poems are intimate and deeply sympathetic, there remains the suggestion of a distance between Glück and the village life she writes about. When she declaims, No one really understands/ the savagery of this place, it feels as though she is speaking less about her chosen subjects than about herself. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Praise for A Village Life

“Though it resembles her others least, A Village Life may come to be seen as Glück’s most beautiful and moving book so far . . . [It] shows a ripening of Glück’s genius, her mastery for depicting the things of this earth . . . [and] can be seen as the work of a master poet who has done what many poets long to do: she has written about death immortally.” —Adam Fitzgerald, Rain Taxi

 

A Village Life magnificently extends the landscapes, the harmonics, and the dramatis personae of Averno . . . More than any of Glück’s previous volumes, A Village Life has a generous heart, a large spiritual scope in which to imagine the lives of others.” —Rosanna Warren, The New Republic

 

“Not many poets can be electrifying while keeping the stakes this hypothermically low. Glück is a master, finely calibrating the shocks and their intervals. This collection, her 11th, is frightening the way a living statue would be frightening if it were to smile at you.” —Dana Goodyear, Los Angeles Times

 

“Here is a poet at the unmistakable peak of her expressive power and experience . . . The characters in A Village Life do what the voice tells them. ‘It says forget, you forget. / It says begin again, you begin again.’ Louise Glück begins again, unforgettably, in this profound new collection of poems.” —Carol Muske-Dukes, Huffington Post

 

“This 11th book of verse by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louise Glück offers beautiful language with a sense of loss and disappointment . . . The poems in A Village Life combine the intensity of her early work and the longer lines and insight of more recent books. The writing is often hauntingly beautiful . . . There are stanzas where Glück makes her landscape seem so radiant or exquisite that you don’t want to turn the page.” —Elizabeth Lund, Christian Science Monitor

 

“Like Cavafy’s persona pieces, the real subject of these poems is often a particular mood, not the transmission of details that distinguish, say, a child’s voice from a farmer’s . . . Glück lets us hear the silence that follows in the confessional. In my favorite poems in A Village Life, she also shows us what one who has heard that silence can now say.” —Zach Savich, Kenyon Review

 

“Louise Glück is one of America’s most famous poets, and one of the best . . . The fictions here are really a pretext for Glück to stage poems that explore, for the first time, material that is neither explicitly her own biography nor that of her mythical stand-ins. Always at the mercy of the Greek gods that inspired her earlier poems, Glück now is playing God herself.” —Morgan Teicher, Cleveland Plain Dealer


Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374532435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374532437
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.3 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #698,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
(6)
4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Louise Gluck's A Village Life will continue Gluck's leading role in American poetry, although it presents a more narrative style than her earlier work. We are presented with a unnamed, vaguely Mediterranean setting in an unclear time. In other words, the focus here is on the people.

The theme is familiar, but Gluck's presentation is unique. Here people, you and old, are faced with the reality that life moves forward whether they are ready or not. Indeed, our own choices may move the direction slightly, but finding our ultimate destination is clearly something we do not control. While we expect this in the older people facing death, Gluck knows that such experiences are not lost on the youth.

In "Noon" we find the tale of a "boy and girl" heading out into the meadow where they talk and picnic.

The rest--how two people can lie down on the blanket--
they know about it but they're not ready for it.
They know people who've done it, as a kind of game or trial--
then they say, no, wrong time, I think I'll just keep being a child.

But your body doesn't listen. It knows everything know,
it says you're not a child, you haven't been a child for a long time.

As the poems move on we see that many of these youth listen to their bodies and find their life now laid out for them. Some go away and come back, but they only suffer more.

To my mind, you're better off if you stay;
that way, dreams don't damage you.

This theme of longing for what we cannot have continues with age.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By B
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As someone who grew to love Gluck's spare, razor-sharp and unsparing style, I was initially disappointed when I read the last poem in this book in The New Yorker well before its release. She seemed to have kept the attention to expansion and length from Averno but it seemed so literal, especially from her and to follow from the (sometimes odd and off-putting) abstractions of Averno.

Once I started reading from the beginning, though, its purpose was clear. It is a more literal-minded book than any she's written before but it is full of the exacting, unflinching observations that made her famous. As someone who loves to see a great poet evolve and produce masterpieces throughout his or her career, I can say that this book has now tied with The Wild Iris and Meadowlands as one of my three favorites.

Read it in sequence. It's the strongest single book of hers in a long time and one of the most accessible recent books of poetry that I have encountered.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Village Life: Poems June 10, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A truly evocative, yet restrained series of images in the life of a village, one that the poet clearly cares for, even is within. The strongest
poem for me was/is "A Corridor", which speaks to the humanity and tragedy of alcoholism: the daily hope, and daily despair, deeply embedded in a family, and a village.
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