Saturday, October 14, 2023



Sad day for poetry. 2020 Nobel Prize winner for Literature Louise Gluck (pronounced "Glick”), the first America non-songwriting poet to garner the award since T.S. Eliot in 1948. Bob Dylan, I suppose, ought to be included in that slim roster of bards, but his 2016 award in the category always smelled fishy, more an award for being famous and influential and being a musician who has made indescribable amounts of capital. Small wonder he won, as his work, whether you liked his songwriting or not, could be listened to rather than read. He deserved something of a lifetime achievement award for all the brilliant and nitwit tunes he's both blessed and cursed the world for over a half century. But he is a songwriter, a complaint I lodge often enough here, he is a songwriter and not a poet and the dimensions of what genius has displayed belong in another category. No, I do not think his lyrics transcend their genre and ascend to the vaunted standard of page poetry. If it did, they'd be giving literary awards to composers who specialized in operas . But they don't give awards meant for book writers and page poets to opera composers or songwriters, and they ought not to have given Dylan one. And for the late Gluck? She is someone I admired more than enjoyed, as I was awed by her ability to deal with the history of her own critical times without lapsing into sef-mythologizing or solipsistic meandering. Her writing was clear and lyric, her tone firm but not inflexible, and she could render her personal verse in subtle virtuoso pieces that framed her experiences as bits of recognizable mythology or graspable folk tales. Her clarity gave her best work a certain lyric sharpness not often seen among contemporary poets who, one may suggest, dress up even their good work with linguistic window dressing and fashionable tropes and phrases that age none too well. She wasn't fearing a reader finding out what she was writing about , let alone who. She was the other side of spectrum from John Ashbery, who's closed off signature style is one I sometimes favor quite a bit. But Gluck was different and she was great and now she's gone.

More about Louise Gluck's writing here.