Experiencing Life in “Faithful and Virtuous Night”
“Faithful and Virtuous Night” by Louise Glück. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014. 80 pages.
One of the most impressive things about Louise Glück's poetry is that she has the uncanny ability to successfully weave the past with the present to produce a vibrant tapestry of words in each poem she writes. Regeneration has always been a primary theme of Glück's poetry, the looking back to reinvent oneself for the future, whether it be in a psychological or concrete manner. Practically every poem in “Faithful and Virtuous Night” contains its own little phoenix arising from its ashes, with remaining flames producing little nuances picked up from her poetry each time they are read. Glück certainly is one of the best contemporary poets of the early twenty-first century: she was Poet Laureate from 2003 to 2004; won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; and received the National Book Critics Circle Award along with many other honors in the field of poetry.
“Parable” is the opening poem to “Faithful and Virtuous Night” which tells the reader to set aside one's worldly goods, detach from the material world and enter the unseen world made of memories, a seeking of creating one's own heaven which is an internal mental and spiritual state when the immediate physical environment does not seem to hold much promise in providing emotional security. The title poem, “Faithful and Virtuous Night”, is a 10-page long epic that recounts the subject's childhood memories both good and bad. Remembrances as such read like an inward journey to discover one's inner child, the recapture of innocence to impress it upon one's adulthood in order to provide some psychological stability while in a state of recovery from trauma (Glück suffered from anorexia nervosa as a teen and has written poetry dealing with her gender and the sometime desire for abnormal thinness). It is impossble to read through and ponder this poem without having an individual life experience come to the forefront of one's mind, an intimate relating to what the poet is saying. As songwriters Clive Scott and Des Dyer wrote:
“Things I love so dearly
Friends I left behind their memory stays”
Other poems in “Faithful and Virtuous Night” generate unusual imagery along the journey through the pages: in one moment, the reader may find the location being an Arizona desert, or at a traveling carnival. For example, “The Past” is a poem where a night filled with the scent of white pine as if it were incense, a nightingale singing, and a full moon, perhaps taking place in a desert. All that is missing from the scene is a coyote. In “Theory of Memory”, the poet's proclamation of being the “tormented artist” who foresaw herself in a past life as a ruler uniting a divided nation – a life described by a fortune teller, perhaps one met at a carnival. The reader can easily visualize and inhale the scents at a carnival: the heady perfume of the fortune teller, kettle corn and cotton candy, along with the occasional macabre half-sheet bearing names and illustrations of shows and rides. Of course, being a “tormented artist” means also a highly suggestive individual who is more apt than not to believe what a fortune teller says from a reading.
Another recurring theme throughout Glück's poems here is the self-sacrifice expected of women in American culture for one's family. In “Visitors from Abroad” - where the poet's mother berates her daughter for not putting her parents ahead of herself (what woman has not heard the phrase “you're supposed to put the needs of others ahead of yourself” from their own mothers?), a feeling of guilt arises from the reader, making it impossible for the reader to not relate what is being read. “Aboriginal Landscape” - a poem about feminism – how the status of women change in American society, for they are no longer beneath men, second-class citizens, getting ahead, or as Glück so eloquently puts it:
“You're stepping on your father”
Poems like the above two, among many others of Glück's, allow the reader to investigate the full impact of the female condition in the first-world where a certain degree of oppression in the form of predefined social roles exist. If a woman cannot travel the same socio-economic path as men do, then what is left? Generally teaching and the literary arts are the only fields left where women can and have excelled at since the days of Christine de Pisan, the famous fourteenth-century writer.
In her poem “The White Series”, Glück combines the allegory of the winter season and human death together, the loss of her aunt and a major life change for the subject as she slowly feels her way into the real world as an adult, a special relationship with her nephew Harry and the hope that one's life continues to go on regardless of what losses one must experience – as well as overcome.
Ideal for cross-course studies in feminism and literature, Louise Glück is one of those must-read poets, and perhaps not just for her extraordinary achievements in the field of poetry. Each poem she writes in “Faithful and Virtuous Night” is a living entity, bound to speak to its reader who will cherish a poem or two of Glück's throughout one's life.
For Jorge Luis Borges, by Carl Boon
Now a boy is carrying a book,
a reminder of a thousand books.
So we lower our baskets
out windows, fold our socks,
and move our bodies in the night
to the Fandango, looking for love, looking
to be loved. What a motion, what a light
configuration against your prophesies.
The sighted gather even now,
they are pasting flowers
on the wall and blowing up balloons.
They are stretching their jeans
and donning hats. While in the corner
of your final page a torero
swirls brandy in his coffee and, deaf
to the fiesta, rehearses his verónicas
very carefully, knowing that tomorrow's fight
could be the last before the blood comes.
Carl Boon lives in Istanbul, where he directs the English prep program and teaches courses in literature at Yeni Yuzyil University. Recent or forthcoming poems appear in The Adirondack Review, The Tulane Review, Posit, and other magazines.
Mountain King, by Michael Keshigian
He pictures the high hills,
cool mist rising from
the valleys between,
vagrant ice patches that linger.
It is his, in his mind’s eye,
that hall of the mountain king
where nature opens before him
beyond the tips of great white pines
that shelter his secret.
The eagles pay homage
when he walks by,
the great cats purr from a roar.
He stares into the scented air
that moments before
cleansed his skin
with a cool, wet breath.
Master of this dominion,
his hair is on fire
peeking, like the sun,
between the vaulted crevices,
his body pulsates
to the rhythm of wind
that forces the clouds
to shear upon the pointed tips,
releasing the rain
like sheets of wavering grain
that greet him
and nourish the wildflowers
into rainbow colors
that attract the yellow bees
and hummingbirds with piercing beaks,
scattering the moths
that saturate the sky like confetti.
The Ghost Moon, by Michael Keshigian
Through the congested
clouds it creeps,
its vague, cratered tonnage,
amid the dust, glides hauntingly
through the mystery about,
its path worn thin,
reflecting the ambitions
above which it hovers
that are slowly invading
those dark recesses once hidden,
barely illuminated by starlight.
Its ghostly image
meanders in and out of sight,
passing through night
like a dream
of continuous divergence
though its warning
and pleas can never be discerned
for under the black sky
it has been decreed
to navigate in exile,
growing more blanch
with every revolution
as we stare,
sometimes in melancholy
sometimes in wonder,
knowing no person
will cast themselves asunder
Michael Keshigian’s ninth poetry book, Dark Edges was recently released this September, 2014 by Flutter Press. Other published books and chapbooks: Eagle’s Perch, Wildflowers, Jazz Face, Warm Summer Memories, Silent Poems, Seeking Solace, Dwindling Knight, Translucent View. Published in numerous national and international journals, he is a 5- time Pushcart Prize and 2-time Best Of The Net nominee. His poetry cycle, Lunar Images, set for Clarinet, Piano, Narrator, was premiered at Del Mar College in Texas. Subsequent performances occurred in Boston (Berklee College) and Moleto, Italy. His website is: michaelkeshigian.com.
Upon My Arrival, by Christopher Davis
The feelings of the occupants are strong
Like a raisin hanging on a vine
Unbothered by everyone but the angry sun.
Very still bodies
Like muted zombies with no brains
Waiting for me to make a move
My leg postures to step
Back in the direction of the door
The silence slowly lifts
The muted zombies become animated again-
Smacking teeth,whispering and pointing at me
Because this little black girl wandered in unknowingly
Causing the deadlock;
Walking confidently out of this place
While the pleased smiling sun sets.
Christopher Davis is a poet, teacher, and photographer. He holds a BA. In English and in Pan African Studies; M.A in Education; and an Ed.S in Education. He has written thousands of poems about life. He is the author of book of poetry entitled Only, If: Volume 1 available for download at the Apple iBook store.
Blue Lunacy, by Woodrow Hightower
The hallucinations started around midnight
As I walked a blind alley with a golf umbrella
Hearing the voices of spiritual ancestors
Whisper in my head “blue lunacy”
Feeling the ground vibrate like a meat grinder
And praying for a cup of grace to find me
A shadow-soaked white suit fronting Club Dynamo
Barked “firecracker show starts in 10 minutes”
So I paid the cover and stepped inside to get warm
The clientage were half-human hardliners
Faces radiating naked fear as American as jazz
And the commando behind the bar rattled a sabre
While asking me “what are you drinking?”
And I said “a bullwhip on the rocks”
I sat next to a guy with John Wayne complex
Who told me about the police blotter and Napoleon’s defeat
And wanted to know if I’d been to Moscow or Angel’s Camp
I said I’d been “sucking tail pipe all day, couldn’t remember”
So he admonished me: “Justice is never cheap”
I nodded in agreement then apologized
“Sometimes the light is a dying star,” I said
And sometimes my mind is not my own.”
Go Ahead, by Linda M. Crate
I don't want you here anymore
your eyes won't pierce
because it's no longer made of glass
you can take your diamonds
I know full well they're not my best friends,
and I know my best friends are
the characters that cling to my elbows
embrace me and my weird
something which you couldn't do;
your dust is dull and tranquil as a forgotten dream—
I, however, am meant to shine
like the moon
dance with the ocean and the sun
won't be held back by anyone or their lack of ambition
because I have clouds and dreams
in the iridescence of my smile
because there's magic in my blood I cannot help but be
happy and be the loving light
for misfits like me;
go ahead and hate me but I will always rise
like the wings of eagles
fly into another pearly smiling dawn.
Broke Your Mask, by Linda M. Crate
You punched the sun
trying to dismantle
the moon in me,
but the silver still shines bright;
the sun sends his
condolences because he plans
on lighting my feathers
so I can burn you
because I rose from my ashes like
ravens are more resilient than even
you could ever hope to
when you knew me I was a rabbit hearted little bird
so eager to please and impress
now I've given that up
you're just a man like any of the others I was with
never a god like we both pretended you were,
and so it's your time to fall
because you've clung too long to lies you've
masqueraded as truths
you're the wolf with a thousand faces
I've cracked your mask—
time to dance with your true colors
because the world deserves to
know your wickedness
I am a battle raven with talons drawn:
ready for war.
Summer's Silence, by B. Z. Niditch
only a Bach solo
plays from my hands
in a radiant bow
of the Mediterranean carob
and the Evergreen,
sounds of water move me
at the windows
a few cardinals suddenly fly
along the Cape's shore
overlapping dunes and trees
by the Bay's shore
a few sailing boats journey by,
all is quiet and tranquil
in the azure June breeze,
my still life hangs
on the drawing board
leaves its eternal image
walled in my own world
Bach swells to flood
the sound proof studio
as sun offers warmth
now sitting by the piano
shadowed as muted light
on a welcomed new bookcase
and awakened threshold
discloses my musical memory
as mirrors of a childhood dawn
emerges by summer bird voices
by the beach whale watchers
a sea sail of ships
as illusions of innocence
travel to the deck and port
near the voices of songbirds
attached to Jacob's ladders
growing in the back yard
near the pale phlox
by burdock and hemlocks
surround our rock garden
near Acacia's thorny trees
which seem to burgeon
as green leaves
newly born to blossom
by the swings cool breeze
waken to my lyrical arpeggios.
In a Blaze of Glory, by Scott Thomas Outlar
Sitting by the edge of the fire,
watching the inferno rage,
waiting to drink deeply
from your chalice of spilled blood –
anything to quench the awful thirst
in this smoke haze revelation field.
The monster can’t be held back any longer –
the beast has risen with an insatiable hunger,
wiping out the forgotten acres of hope
while sowing seeds of desolation and despair.
One last kiss is all I desire.
Bite my tongue and drain the poison
that I may lie here in delirium
to witness the final moments
of this apocalyptic apotheosis
in all its terrible glory.
Absolution is calling.
The flames intensify toward completeness,
burning away at evolution’s progress –
like everything else that has ever been,
returned now to ash, to dust, to star.
Scott Thomas Outlar spends the hours flowing and fluxing with the ever changing currents of the Tao River while laughing at and/or weeping over life's existential nature. His words have appeared recently in venues such as Dissident Voice, Yellow Chair Review, Rasputin, and Piker Press. More of his work can be found at 17numa.wordpress.com.