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American Originality

Essays on Poetry

Louise Glück

Cover of American Originality by Louise Gluck
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Categories: 21st Century, American, Women
Imprint: Lives and Letters
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (208 pages)
(Pub. Apr 2021)
9781800171558
£14.99 £13.49
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(Pub. Apr 2021)
9781800171565
£11.99 £10.79
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • The probing essays collected in American Originality scrutinise the terms we use to think about recent American poetry, its antecedents (not just Whitman and Dickinson but Ovid, Rilke, Thomas Mann, Keats) and its future, questioning how we distinguish between work that is unique and work that is original, carefully delineating the allure of both 'shared traditions' and 'the cult of illogic'. Attentive always to risk and danger, Louise Glück illuminates how the poet at work moves between panic and gratitude, agony and resolution.

    Essays on specific writers and on the larger themes of American literature introduce the terms by which she reads and celebrates ten younger poets whose work she has advocated. Studded with brilliant insights into her own practice and the work of her contemporaries, this is an essential book for any interested reader of new poetry.
    Louise Glűck is the author of twelve books of poems and two collections of essays. She received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal." Her other awards include the National Humanities Medal, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, ... read more
    Awards won by Louise Glück Winner, 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature Short-listed, 2014 Forward Prize for Best Collection (Faithful and Virtuous Night) Short-listed, 2014 T. S. Eliot Prize (Faithful and Virtuous Night) Winner, 1993 Pulitzer Prize (The Wild Iris)
    'These essays constitute long-form extensions of Gluck's own poetic concerns... people familiar with Glück's poetry will recognise this hallmark astringency and its attendant whiplash wit'

    Dzifa Benson, The Poetry Review

    'Gluck's essays are delicate, tactful, self-aware and wry; her sense of humour is so understated that you might miss it if you think of her solely as a poet of tenacity and autumnal smokiness... Reading American Originality alongside her first essay collection, Proofs and Theories (1994), a portrait emerges of a wilful, embattled child who earned her stern serenity not only through loss but also through that miraculous state of grace that poetry can provide'

    Ange Mlinko, Literary Review

    'In this collection of sharply focussed and insightful essays one unifying theme emerges. Despite all the fads and fashions, the dead ends and new waves of poetry one thing survives, and that as she so vividly reminds us, is poetry'

    Roger Bloor, The Alchemy Spoon

    Praise for Louise Glück 'Glück has a keen sense of how humans look for beauty in what they missed or lost, the beauty there is in that and of course also the sadness: 'how ignorant we all are most of the time, / seeing things / only from one vantage, like a sniper.'

    Kristian Vistrup Madsen, The White Review
    'This wry, read-in-a-sitting delight channels the myriad possibilities of fiction with a huge sense of fun.'

    Justine Jordan, The Guardian Fiction Books of the Year 2022

    'Marigold and Rose can be devoured in a single sitting, and that's probably the best way to enter its tonal world, which is strangely hypnotic, in part because the mood never swings to violent intensity, and in part because of the orderly rhythms of Glück's prose... like her poetry, it gains its force from acute observation'

    Fiona Sampson, The Guardian

    'Glück, in shrinking the world to the size of a pair of blankets inside cribs, manages to gently pack her narrative with feeling... This is a delicate, minor-key book. It addresses, in larval and thus primal form, many of the concerns of Glück's poetry.'

    Dwight Garner, The New York Times

    'In lesser hands Marigold and Rose could feel mawkish. But Glück, at 79, hasn’t won most of the major literary prizes out there to mess this up. It's an affecting, alluring book. As soon as I'd finished I read it again.'

    Susie Mesure, The Spectator

    'Glück's challenge, which she elegantly achieves, is to channel her late wisdom into the simple yet surprising language and perspective of children... the themes of sisterhood, family, proximity, and the acquisition of language have long been Glück's hallmarks; here, she has transformed those themes with a shapeshifter's aplomb. Marigold and Rose could be read at bedtime between parents and children -or by anyone needing a masterclass in brief, compact storytelling with resonances for the very wise and the very innocent.'

    Oluwaseun Olayiwola, The Telegraph

    'Scraps of family intimacy float in, Gluck's touch sometimes so light it comes to us as a murmur in the ear...a brave book' 

    Dilys Wood, Artemis Poetry 

    'Glück's talent is for saying the thing that might not feel true until it is put into words, as though we were on the therapist's couch. But she doesn't counsel or patronize - she's right on the couch next to the reader, hearing the lesson... Louise Glück has written some of the most incantatory, sorrowful, wrenching lyrics in American poetry. Her work is not for readers who want to be coddled, but for those who can apprehend that psychological dissonance, difficult as it may be to endure, is evidence of life.'

    Oluwaseun Olayiwola, Times Literary Supplement

    'Glück's poems in this collection are quietly compelling as they suggest stories of sorrow and loss which are fundamental to our shared human existence.'

    Kathleen Bell, The High Window

     'Glück's skill is Orpheus-like: to travel to hellish depths and find a way back again. As we journey through such dark territories, we are grateful for her insight.'

    Tanvi Roberts, Irish Times

    Glucks first collection since she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2020. Memories, absent voices and clocks speak of the passage of time, and of the loss and decay left in time's wake. Yet there is also acceptance, coping and - as the 'collective' of the title suggests - an invitation to those readers 'who will know what I mean'.

    Maria Crawford, Financial Times Best Poetry Books of 2021

    'Silence has been prominent in Glück's work for decades... The book is full of echoes of her earlier work, its winds (the breath of the void) and silence'

    Elisa Gabbert, New York Times

    'A slim volume of just 15 pieces, but like all the Nobel laureate's work, it punches above its apparent weight. Glück has always been a fastidiously exact truth-teller; her lucid poems pretend to a plainness that's really the simplicity of something more fully worked out than the rest of us can manage. It is a hallmark of late, great writing, as is the courage to go into the dark... We're back in the stylised, half-dreamed Glück landscapes that are rural equivalents of an Edward Hopper painting, and back with her astonishing poetry'

    Fiona Sampson, The Guardian
    'Her writing's emotional and rhetorical intensity are beyond dispute. Not once in six books has she wavered from a formal seriousness, an unhurried sense of control and a starkness of expression that, like a scalpel, slices the mist dwelling between hope and pain.'
    Washington Post
    'Gluck stands at the centre of time and speaks, not with raw emotion or linguistic abandon, but with the ageless urgency of questions about the soul.'
    Partisan Review
    'Characteristically sure-footed, Glück speaks to our time in a voice that is onstage, but heard from the wings.'
    Publishers Weekly
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