From time to time, lately, I’ve been reading from Louise Gluck’s Averno. Most of her poetry in this collection center around retelling the myth of Persephone. Averno is a small crater in Italy, believed by the ancient Romans to be a gateway into the underworld.

In this review of Gluck’s Averno, the critic claims that in most works of art, lives have — and in William Butler Yeats’ very own words — “character isolated by a deed.”

However, in Gluck’s poetry, there are no deeds. There are no moments of decision. There is only a remembered “before”, and a startled, stripped-down “after”:

Snow began falling, over the surface of the whole earth.
That can’t be true. And yet it felt true,
falling more and more thickly over everything I could see.
The pines turned brittle with ice.

This is the place I told you about,
where I used to come at night to see the red-winged blackbirds,
what we call thrush here-
red flicker of the life that disappears-

But for me – I think the guilt I feel must mean
I haven’t lived very well.

Someone like me doesn’t escape. I think you sleep awhile,
then you descend into the terror of the next life

the soul is in some different form,
more or less conscious than it was before,
more or less covetous.

After many lives, maybe something changes.
I think in the end what you want
you’ll be able to see-

Then you don’t need anymore
to die and come back again.

{ Louise Gluck }

If this review and the poem I shared still doesn’t make you pick up a copy of Averno to read for yourself, maybe sharing one more will change that.

So, here.
One more:

And he would say,
in a short time you will be here again.
And in the time between

you will forget everything:
those fields of ice will be
the meadows of Elysium.

{ Louise Gluck }
Persephone the Wanderer



About Klassy

How Klassy got her groove back.

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