Last October 2020 she received the Nobel prize for Literature, the highest possible literary tribute. The Nobel Committee praises her work: ‘An unmistakably poetic voice, turning the individual existence universal, with an austere beauty’.
Louise, born on April 22nd, 1943, grew up in Long Island, New York. Her mother originated from Russian-Jewish family, her grandparents on her father’s side were Hungarian Jews who emigrated to the United States. As deputy professor and ‘Rosencrantz Writer in Residence’ she has been connected with the Yale-University. The two poems mentioned in the newspaper article speak a language that triggers me to learn more.
Louise Glück is long since one of the most interesting authors of the United States, but in the Netherlands not a lot of her work has been printed, and only a handful of poems was ever translated for literary magazines, one of the translators being Erik Menkveld, former critic of the newpaper the ‘Volkskrant’.
For a moment I consider sending her an email. However, that turns out to be rather difficult. Even when she was granted the Nobel prize for Literature – something that she thought would never occur in her life – the poet remains modest and refuses to appear in the spotlights, photo sessions and interviews:
I have a strong aversion to doing interviews and have done very few in my now rather long life. So I must decline this, though I am grateful for the interest. 
At the time Erik Menkveld wrote her a fictional letter.
I dare to surrender to her poems, what they are telling me and what they mean to say to me. May I call her a poet who determines herself by the core of life? She gives words to loneliness, decline, despair, death and loss, sometimes using an emotional tone, and then again using a direct, clear and even aerial tone. She cherishes hope and finds strength to keep on going, despite everything, and to always get up again. Subtle, but accessible, she stops at the great questions of life.
I wonder who the ‘I” is in her poems, who the ‘mine’ and ‘your’ are.
This is how the poem “Sunset” begins:
My great happiness
is the sound of your voice makes
calling to me even in despair; my sorrow
And I answer constantly
… My tenderness
should be apparent to you
in the breeze of the summer evening
and in the words that become
your own response.
In the poetry collection ‘The Wild Iris’  she writes from the perspective and in the language of flowers. For instance, she lets ‘The Red Poppy’ tell:
(…) I have
a lord in Heaven
called the sun and open
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? (…),
then suddenly at the very end she submits the question to the readers:
(…) Did you
to open once, who would never
open again? (…)
Her poems seem to have a kind of inner conversation with each other. Very surprising is ‘The Wild Iris’, in which the iris states to have its own consciousness. The poems breathe the atmosphere of autumn, a time of farewell, of sorrow, but also of joy and Spring, of new life. She describes her ‘death’ in the dark soil, in winter; ending up under the ground to perish there in loneliness, full of fear, unable to speak. And how she again obtains hope after the despair, about the light that is returning, the end of the suffering. The resurrection in Spring, the opening of the earth as a door that opens, for a nascent flower in the light.
The iris returns from the other world and what was forgotten then finds a voice again. She discovers the light of the soul in the heart, that always returns from oblivion,
from the center of my life came a great fountain, deep blue,
in order to find the voice again to express itself.
I tell you I could speak again!
To me this seems to speak from being torn loose from oblivion, wanting to encourage us, the people
you who do not remember passage from the other world.
There is no death! Right through all seasons an eternal continuous life is flowing!
I read in the newspaper that family forms a large theme in the poetry collection of Louise Glück. It is then about the relations between parents and children, between children of the same parents, to which we attribute a natural warmth as a matter of course. But Louise reveals the sharp edges, the uncertain shadow side.
It seems as if she and the family members are speaking in turns. As a reproach we hear the human aspect ask in the poems ‘Matins’:
What is my heart to you that you
must break it over and over
Very honest is the statement:
(…) I cannot love
what I can’t conceive.
Halfway through the poem it seems to turn into an indictment on the higher:
(…) you disclose
virtually nothing: are you like the hawthorn tree,
always the same thing in the same place,
or are you more the foxglove inconsistent, (…)
(…) You must see
it is useless to us, this silence that promotes belief
you must be all things, the foxglove and the hawthorn tree,
the vulnerable rose and tough daisy–we are left to think
you couldn’t possibly exist. (…)
Grief echoes through the lines:
(…) under the light weight
of my mother’s heart, or if not then,
in dream, first
being that would never die.
The inner conversation continues. In the poems ‘Retreating Wind’ and ‘Clear Morning’ a divine voice resounds:
When I made you, I loved you
Now I pity you
I gave you all you needed:
bed of earth, blanket of blue air–
your souls should have been immense by now,
not what they are,
small talking things-–
I have watched you long enough
I can speak to you any way I like
you would never accept a voice like mine.
It indeed says to reveal itself ‘in details of earth’, in tendrils of blue clematis, light of early evening, yes in evening light and the balmy summer wind. The tender presence and connection would still be evident. But
my sorrow (is) that I cannot answer you in speech
as you all would like. You do not accept my voice. And for a moment I think: yes, those ‘small, talking things’, that are we, who are kept entangled in the merely human aspect, in the merely earthly details, in the discrepancies, the circle of cause and consequence.
The three voices in the poems remind me of the beginning of the movie “Disobedience”. An old rabbi staggeringly opens with the words from the Thora:
In the beginning
Hasjem created three kinds of beings:
The angels, the animals and humans.
The angels Hasjem created from his pure word. They have no tendencies, no will for evil. They will not deviate from His creation.
The animals are guided by their instincts, thus also following the will of their Creator.
In the Thora it is said that Hasjem had six days to create those beings.
Just before sunset Hasjem took a handful of earth and created humans: man and woman. Humans, merely side issues? Or should they become the crown on his Work? So, what kind is it then?
A human being, a creature with the power to be disobedient.
We are the only beings with a free will, man and woman.
We are in close position to the clarity of the angels and the desires of the animals.
Hasjem gave us the choice. A right and a burden.
We choose what kind of complicated life we wish to lead.
Three kinds of creations: the angel, the animal and mankind. Are we indeed positioned close to the clarity of the spiritual? Or are we close to the desires of the earthly? A human being has received the power and freedom of choice: whether or not to ‘heed’ the divine or not. A burden, as Sartre, the French philosopher says:
Mankind is doomed to freedom.
But also a right bearing importance. Would you have the courage to claim that right, that blistering frightening freedom, then you too understand why she writes in ‘Retreating Wind’:
Whatever you hoped
you will not find yourselves in the garden
among the growing plants.
Your lives are not circular like theirs:
your lives are the bird’s flight.
A human being, mighty, all-mighty, in his ascent unto divine life.
I am prepared now to force clarity upon you.
The Wild Iris
At the end of my suffering
there was a door.
Hear me out: that which you call death
Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.
It is terrible to survive
buried in the dark earth.
Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.
You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:
from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.
I’ve watched you long enough,
I can speak to you any way I like –
I’ve submitted to your preferences, observing patiently
the things you love, speaking
through vehicles only, in
details of earth, as you prefer,
of blue clematis, light
of early evening –
you would never accept
a voice like mine, indifferent
to the objects you busily name,
small circles of awe–
And all this time
I indulged your limitation, thinking
you would cast it aside yourselves sooner or later,
thinking matter could not absorb your gaze forever—
obstacle of the clematis painting
blue flowers on the porch window—
I cannot go on
restricting myself to images
because you think it is your right
to dispute my meaning:
I am prepared now to force
clarity upon you.
 Colette Demil, Groots in bescheidenheid [Grand in modesty], Magazine of the Orde van de Prince
 Hoogachtend [Yours truly], Erik Menkveld, letter to Louise Glück. NRC Handelsblad October 9, 2020
 ‘Sunset’, ‘The Red Poppy’, ‘Matins’, ‘Retreating Wind’, ‘The Wild Iris’ and ‘Clear Morning’ are published in 
 Louise Glück, The Wild Iris. The Ecco Press, 1992.