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This review is taken from PN Review 222, Volume 41 Number 4, March - April 2015.

Hearing Voices louise glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night (Carcanet Press) £9.95

Two moments form the arc upon which Louise Glück’s thirteenth collection, Faithful and Virtuous Night, rests: the lines ‘Feeling has departed—it occurs to me / this would make a fine headstone’ (from ‘Approach of the Horizon’, in which the speaker, a visual artist, has a paralysed right arm), and ‘I wiped the dust from my mother’s face’ (from ‘A Summer Garden’, in which the poet discovers a photograph of her dead mother). In these poems and the rest, Glück speaks both of the night and to it from a place of retrospection, armed with questions: what will I remember, what do I cling to, how do I approach death and discontinuity?

The poems lead, as indeed Glück’s lifetime of poems do, to a confluence of profound sentiment and wry humour that swells into a curious nightmare:

When I picked it up, the line was dead.
Or was the phone working and the caller dead?
Or was it not the phone, but the door perhaps?

The communications in Faithful and Virtuous Night are no weirder than the speech of the flower in The Wild Iris. The mysticism of Iris is missing, however – here, the night is all. Glück’s scenes become more Felliniesque than ever before. Her I converses with fantasy characters, such as the conductor of a ‘small train’ she pursues through a graveyard: ‘Do not forget me, I cried, running now / over many plots, many mothers and fathers— // […] He gazed at me with increasing frankness. / I was like you once, he ...


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