This is Poetry: Louise Gluck

Louise Gluck (photo: Gasper Tringale)

I read Louise Glück’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection The Wild Iris years ago and loved it, but this particular poem did not strike me until I came across it in a workshop last summer.


comes into the world unwelcome
calling disorder, disorder—

If you hate me so much
don’t bother to give me
a name: do you need
one more slur
in your language, another
way to blame
one tribe for everything—

as we both know,
if you worship
one god, you only need
one enemy—

I’m not the enemy.
Only a ruse to ignore
what you see happening
right here in this bed,
a little paradigm
of failure.  One of your precious flowers
dies here almost every day
and you can’t rest until
you attack the cause, meaning
whatever is left, whatever
happens to be sturdier
than your personal passion—

It was not meant
to last forever in the real world.
But why admit that, when you can go on
doing what you always do,
mourning and laying blame,
always the two together.

I don’t need your praise
to survive.  I was here first,
before you were here, before
you ever planted a garden.
And I’ll be here when only the sun and moon
are left, and the sea, and the wide field.

I will constitute the field.


That last line keeps ringing in my ears.

Glück teaches in the MFA program at Boston University. Hear Glück read this poem here.

NBA Finals: Ode to Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks face LeBron/Wade/Bosh and the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals. The Mavs lost to the Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals.

Fast Break

In Memory of Dennis Turner, 1946-1984

By Edward Hirsch

A hook shot kisses the rim and
hangs there, helplessly, but doesn’t drop,

and for once our gangly starting center
boxes out his man and times his jump

perfectly, gathering the orange leather
from the air like a cherished possession

and spinning around to throw a strike
to the outlet who is already shoveling

an underhand pass toward the other guard
scissoring past a flat-footed defender

who looks stunned and nailed to the floor
in the wrong direction, trying to catch sight

of a high, gliding dribble and a man
letting the play develop in front of him

in slow motion, almost exactly
like a coach’s drawing on the blackboard,

both forwards racing down the court
the way that forwards should, fanning out

and filling the lanes in tandem, moving
together as brothers passing the ball

between them without a dribble, without
a single bounce hitting the hardwood

until the guard finally lunges out
and commits to the wrong man

while the power-forward explodes past them
in a fury, taking the ball into the air

by himself now and laying it gently
against the glass for a lay-up,

but losing his balance in the process,
inexplicably falling, hitting the floor

with a wild, headlong motion
for the game he loved like a country

and swiveling back to see an orange blur
floating perfectly through the net.

Tales of an MFA Applicant

"I dwell in Possibility" -- Emily Dickinson

In a time of economic downturn and imploding journalism and publishing industries, an unprecedented number of people applied to Master’s of Fine Arts programs in creative writing for Fall 2010 admission. I am one such person. Unhappily employed and longing for creative fulfillment, I dusted off some undergrad poems and came up with some new ones for my 10-20-page portfolio. I applied to nine programs across the country – eight of which were highly competitive due to funding availability.

At the end of my MFA season, I ended up getting into the noncompetitive program and getting waitlisted at NYU. The noncompetitive program offered me a GSI position but the tuition and cost of living was steep. I declined my spot and I am thinking about applying again in the fall – with an improved portfolio and a revised  list of schools.

While it does bruise the ego to receive creative rejection, it is difficult process for many and rejection is part of being an artist. You are competing for anywhere from 2-20 spaces per school, which leads many people to apply to 20+ programs. There are a growing number of programs to choose from and it is difficult to determine which programs match up with one’s aesthetic beliefs and educational interests (heavy literature load vs. ability to take non-literature classes, career colloquia, ability to teach, etc.) – and where the stars align among funding, weather, and local city quality.

To pay my Manhattan rent, I have worked at job that involves scientific reading and writing. I have spent many years trying not to absorb any of it. However, it has had a negative effect on my ability to write poetry – stifling my ability to “say it slant” and to stay focused while reading lit crit.

I know my poetry portfolio could have been stronger and should include more current work. To rid myself of the toxic job and immerse myself into creative expression, I intend to make a big move in the next month. I am incredibly excited and motivated to make a fresh start.

John Keats and Fanny Brawne: “Bright Star” Finds Its Path

where are the words to name our love

where are the words to name our love

Just when one starts to lament the lack of English period pieces apart from Masterpiece Classic—there is news of director Jane Campion’s latest film, which chronicles the relationship between John Keats and Fanny Brawne. A U.S. distributor has picked up the film, which is currently competing at Cannes and stars Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish. The film’s title is taken from a poem written by Keats after becoming engaged to Brawne.

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.