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Books Noted: Louise Glück, A Village Life


Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009

A Village Life is a remarkable book that exemplifies a perfected yet different tone for Glück. The voice of these pieces is both eloquent and precise, yet rarely comes across as austere. Instead, we find a sense of tenderness in A Village Life, as well as a notable formal progression in Glück's writing. The poems are spun from lengthier lines, gentle sentiment, and extended meditations on time, memory, and language. Set within scenes of village life, the poems examine the living that occurs between the noises, or rather, in the silences of existence. Glück carefully balances inscrutable and plainspoken observations by grounding many of the poems in immense and external spaces, a setup that allows the speaker's thoughts to move effortlessly across the confines of time, place, and self. In "Crossroads," the speaker reflects on an impending sense of mortality: "My body, now that we will not be traveling together any longer, / I begin to feel a new affection towards you." Here, and throughout the collection, Glück loosens her grip on language, ever so slightly, so that the speech and thought of these poems may expand and contract in a fluid and organic manner. In this formal release, we find a voice coming to terms with the physicality of the self, a voice working to forge a new understanding of the "body"—not as something to be silenced but something to be regarded as the source of one's most pure, unmannered, and unapologetic utterances.

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