Posts Tagged 'averno'

Review: Averno

I don’t consider myself a huge consumer of poetry. There are some individual poems I like well enough, but I can count the number of poetry volumes I have on my bookshelves on one hand–and these tend to be by very well-known and popular poets.

That being said…Averno, by Louise Gluck, is breathtaking.

I was playing around on The Academy of American Poets’ website–something I do when I need inspiration for creative writing–when I came across Gluck’s poem The Myth of Innocence. (Do yourself a favor and click that link!) I was so taken aback by the beauty of her language and imagery that I ordered Averno immediately.

Averno itself is a lake in Italy that the ancient Romans believed marked the entrance to the underworld. This collection of poems fittingly concerns itself with death, love, mothers and daughters, nature, and the soul. The myth of Persephone and Hades is the strand that holds many of the pieces together, and Gluck’s take on it is mournful and exuberant all at once, a far cry from the original, simple tale of lust and abduction. If, like me, you loved getting lost in Greek mythology as a kid, you would probably enjoy this more nuanced, adult rewriting of a myth.

It would have been easy, I think, to have gotten lost in myths and legendary figures, but Gluck is insistent on realism, humanizing not only Persephone but also herself, as an artist, a friend, and a lover. She speaks about her own soul, the artist’s soul, and her relationships with the same lofty, dreamlike language she uses to describe Persephone. Her talent is intimidating but also inspiring.

Here’s a sample, from a poem called “October”:

The light has changed;
middle C is tuned darker now.
And the songs of morning sound over-rehearsed.

This is the light of autumn, not the light of spring.
The light of autumn: you will not be spared.

Chills, right?

No matter how eloquently I write about Averno, it’s but a shade of how impressive the actual poems are. Click here for the New York Times’ (arguably much better) review of Averno, but do yourself a favor and just read the book itself!

Bookwanderer Rating: Five out of five stars

Top Ten Tuesday: The Top Ten Books I’d Quickly Save If My House Was Going To Be Abducted By Aliens

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, they post a topic and encourage fellow bloggers to list their own top ten answers. They are particularly fond of lists and I have to say, so am I! I like the idea of this meme because it’s a little more intensive and in-depth than some others I’ve seen. I don’t know that I’ll do it every week, but I liked this Tuesday’s topic: The Top Ten Books I’d Quickly Save If My House Was Going To Be Abducted By Aliens.

1. Passage, by Connie Willis
I couldn’t put this book down when I read it for the first time. It’s not only one of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy novels, but one of my favorite novels period. Willis’s conceptualization of what exists for us after death is eerie and sad but ultimately hopeful, too.

2. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
What can I say? I really like Connie Willis. She writes wonderfully real female characters and the coolest plots!

3. The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing
This should be mandatory reading for everyone who considers themselves feminists. (And actually, for people who don’t consider themselves feminists, either–maybe it will make them one.) I love my worn and dog-eared copy of this book, and would want to save it so I could continue to press it on my friends.

4. Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
I love reading about the American West, and nobody writes it like McCarthy. This is my favorite out of all his works; the Biblical imagery contrasts spectacularly against the savagery and senselessness of the Judge and his gang. Every time I read Blood Meridian, I realize something new.

5. Averno, by Louise Gluck
I hope poetry counts! This collection is haunting and lovely by turns. Gluck’s appropriation of the myth of Persephone and Hades into both a doomed love story and a struggle between mother and daughter and mother and husband is masterful. (Also, it’s a short collection and would help break up the longer texts I’ve included!)

6. The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran
My high school guidance counselor gave me a copy of this eight years ago. I am still as enchanted by Gibran’s dreamy prose poetry now as I was as an 18 year old! His poems are also serve as some of the best possible inspiration for my own original writing.

7. The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell
I thought this was especially fitting for the alien theme, since the novel explores humanity’s interaction with a newly-discovered alien planet through the experiences of a team of Jesuits. The angst levels in this one are incredible.

8. The Birds of Ecuador Field Guide, by Robert S. Ridgely
I brought this guide with me on my three-month long study abroad trip to Ecuador and proceeded to carry it in my backpack the entire time I was there. My time in Ecuador helped take my interest in birds and make me into a real birdwatcher. Totally indispensable, beautifully-illustrated plates, and best of all, includes all of my penciled-in notations of when and where I saw each bird.

9. Open Veins of Latin America, by Eduardo Hughes Galeano
Speaking of my time in Ecuador…I read this book for the second time while I was there, and it made a huge impact in the way I think about Latin America and its relationship to the United States. The copy I have was my father’s original copy from when he was young, growing up in Mexico, and that makes it even more special to me.

10.  East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
One of my best friends gave me East of Eden, knowing of my love for novels that deal with the evil that lurks in the hearts of men (and women). Besides being my fave Steinbeck, my friend wrote a lovely inscription in the front, and even though I could replace the book, I wouldn’t be able to replace her kind words!

Whew! That was fun (and surprisingly easy)! So that’s my list. Check out others’ lists over at The Broke and the Bookish!


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