Sunday, April 7, 2019

30 Great Poems for April, Day 7: “Mock Orange” by Louise Glück

Read "Mock Orange" on the Poetry Foundation site here.

One of the best things about this “Great Poems” project is that I really get to think about what poems are my all-time favorites; I get to revisit them and see if they still hold up, if they’re still my favorites. And this one by Louise Glück absolutely does, and is. I think I first read it in a college course in the early ’80s, and it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

This is the poem that made me a fan of Louise Glück. It does all the things I’ve come to love most about her work:

• The title sets up an expectation, and then the first line completely dashes that expectation and sends you reeling off in a different direction.

• There’s a truly startling, even disturbing statement early on (“I hate them. / I hate them as I hate sex”).

• The narrative blurs the line between the real world and a mythic one, a sense that many worlds are held in this poem simultaneously.

• You get an intense feeling that this is a writer who packs a huge punch, who can flatten you with words.

• And of course there’s the anger, a sound like the Furies howling down through the ages. This really appealed to me as a college student, a time when I was fending off everything from comments about my appearance to threats of actual violence. Frankly, the anger of this poem still appeals to me (maybe even more so now, with so much fending we all still have to do). This is a poet who speaks her mind and doesn't care what people think.

Like many of Glück’s poems (pretty much all of The Wild Iris or Meadowlands), this is one I never get tired of.

[All through April, I’m featuring a favorite poem every day, along with a link where you can read it. Some are classics, some are newer, but each one is the kind of poem that I read, love, and immediately want to tell all my friends about. What better to time to share them than National Poetry Month?]

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