Poetry in the currently mad world: reverence, recognition, escape

Updated: Apr 22, 2019


Today in 1943 the poet Louise Glück was born in New York City.


In my first-ever poetry course—taken , not taught—she was one of the "young poets" we studied. And unlike the other preeminent young women poets of the time, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, Ms. Glück had not committed suicide. She continued to be.


She still is: today is her 76th birthday.


I don't know how I first stumbled across "Early December...." (see below) but the images have never left me. Honestly, I don't know why: I have never lived in New York, never driven out of the City to visit friends, never seen snow on the edges of the Hudson. It's not nostalgia, but it's...something.


For years, before the instant gratification of Internet searches, I kept a typed (with a typewriter!) version of this poem on my bulletin board. If I didn't read it every day, I looked at it. But unlike many short poems that have been committed to memory, "Early December..." doesn't reside in some rote compartment of my brain. It needs to be read. I offer you the opportunity.


Louise Glück is no longer a young poet, and I am no longer a young anything. But her words have not aged at all, and her images—startling, stark, harsh, even disturbing and violent—ring no less true with the passage of a half century.


People often ask what a poem means.


This is what it means.

 

Early December in Croton-on-Hudson


Spiked sun. The Hudson’s Whittled down by ice. I hear the bone dice Of blown gravel clicking. Bone- pale, the recent snow Fastens like fur to the river. Standstill. We were leaving to deliver Christmas presents when the tire blew Last year. Above the dead valves pines pared Down by a storm stood, limbs bared . . . I want you.


 


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