Louise Glück died on Friday, October 13, 2023, at the age of 80. She grew up in Hewlett, a Nassau County hamlet on Long Island. She published 12 books of poetry, with her first book, Firstborn, coming out in 1968. She and her books won a Pulitzer Prize, a Bollinger Prize, a Nobel Prize in Literature, a Sara Teasdale Memorial Prize, and many others. She was also a U.S. Poet Laureate.
She wrote a great deal about dark spaces: grief, loneliness, family dysfunction, isolation, regret, unfulfilled longing, and trauma. But she also wrote poems about love, sex, nature, and contentment. Her style and voice were as unique to poetry as Dickinson or Hughes or Whitman or cummings, and she did many things that many of us were taught not to do, which was part of what I admire about her poetry.
(The poem below includes a word in the last line--soul--I was told to NEVER USE IN A POEM. EVER. I was also told to always limit my yellow fabrics in quilts by more than one quilter. So . . . you guessed it: I have at least a handful of poems with the word soul in them--sometimes even in the title!--and many of my quilts have yellow upon yellow upon yellow. I think my first words were "You're not the boss of me.").
Below is my favorite poem of hers, and one of her most well-known. It inspired me to write a poem called "Moons in Autumn," which was published decades ago in The Pikeville Review, and I am betting this prompt will inspire you in the same way.
Glück's poem, "All Hallows," is an unnerving little poem, although she avoids the usual tropes of Halloween and horror, not only in her images but also her language (except for the words pestilence and creeps). Read her poem and then keep reading for your prompt.
by Louise Glück
Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
bound evenly and piled at the roadside
among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:
This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling
Come here, little one
And the soul creeps out of the tree.
Your prompt for this week:
write a poem that evokes autumn and/or Halloween without mentioning either word
focus on nature
include an animal not usually associated with autumn or Halloween
include two colors
mention the moon, in passing, and give it a human attribute
end with a single line that includes a tree