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This review is taken from PN Review 203, Volume 38 Number 3, January - February 2012.

PANORAMIC, CASUAL, UNBEAUTIFUL louise glück, A Village Life (Carcanet) £8.96

Louise Glück concluded her 1999 book, Vita Nova, with these lines:

I thought my life was over and my heart was broken.
Then I moved to Cambridge.

That simple statement, in unadorned, direct address, was a consummation of the book it closed, and also of the one that had preceded it, Meadowlands. It was a landmark in the writer's style, as it suggests it was in her life.

The two books that followed were written from that new life. In an interview with Dana Levin (read online at:, Glück said she found herself in another of the long periods of not writing which she described in her collection of essays, Proofs and Theories (1996). As she emerged from that time, she began to discover the form of her next collection, which has now reached publication as A Village Life: 'I had done everything I could do at the moment with poems operating on a vertical axis of transcendence and grief. And this new manuscript had to be more panoramic, somehow, and casual, with a kind of unbeautiful surface.' The idea of a village life suggests a smaller purview, more intimate, perhaps less sophisticated. The title calls to mind the Japanese masters - Ryōkan, Bashō - and their poems written from the margins (the book's cover image, a print by an unknown Japanese artist, reinforces this association).

The village starts to take shape in the opening poem, 'Twilight', ...

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