A Sweetest Melancholy


Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Gluck. Published 2014 by Farrar, Straus, and Grioux. 71 pages (paperback).

Ghosts haunt these pages.

This is a poetry collection, which is not something I can say I read much of, but with a few weeks left in the year and several books to read before I meet my goal of 29, short collections like this are appealing. That certainly doesn’t mean the quality is any less.

“I think here I will leave you. It has come to seem
there is not perfect ending.
Indeed, there are infinite endings.
Or perhaps, once one begins,
there are only endings.”

Louise Gluck is a the kind of poet you would find being studied in classrooms—her work is not of the easily digestible, top-selling kind (a topic for another day), but luminescent writing filled with allegory and depth begging to be unpacked. This collection is a treasure trove of discovery, even if you have to work for it. It may be helpful to note here that it won the National Book Award, as well.

“My brother brought me books and journals.
He taught me various new world skills
for which I would soon have no use.”

The collection has a loose story and a small caste of vague, recurring characters: the speaker, a brother, an aunt, and two dead parents. These characters come and go, as if they are wandering amongst the memory of the poem’s speaker in the morning fog. This creates a dream-like melancholy, which for me, is quite an attractive quality in a poem collection. And like a dream, or a memory, one cannot be exactly sure what is true or imagined.

511FnlgvK6L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgI was put in a meditative mood when reading this, which I found personally valuable as I read a poem or two in between school work or long non-fiction chapters. Sometimes I felt as though I were floating through each line, and other times I was in awe of the precision of Gluck’s language.

Upon further research, I’ve learned that she has an extensive backlog, which doesn’t surprise me (she also lives next door in Cambridge!). However, according to other reviews, this collection is far more cerebral than her previous work, although I found the overarching narrative to be a positive.

This is a great collection for cold winter nights (and quiet winter mornings). If you’re looking to get into more “serious” poetry, it would be a great pick up.


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