Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Poem #2: Odysseus' Decision

The great man turns his back on the island.
Now he will not die in paradise
nor hear again
the lutes of paradise among the olive trees,
by the clear pools under the cypresses. Time
begins now, in which he hears again
that pulse which is the narrative
sea, at dawn when its pull is strongest.
What has brought us here
will lead us away; our ship
sways in the tinted harbor water.
Now the spell is ended.
Give him back his life,
sea that can only move forward.

- by Louise Gluck


At 2:22 AM, Anonymous Shrinkwrap said...

A new poet for me...need to read more! I like this one, and would be interested to hear what it says to you, Craw.

At 7:02 PM, Blogger Crawdad said...

Cool! FYI, Louise Gluck was the US poet laureate after Billy Collins, for one year. I ran into her stuff a year ago or so at Powell's, where I asked about Billy Collins. The helpful poetry section person seemed to make an effort not to sniff or raise up her nose, but she said that while, yes, Billy Collins was quite fine, there was a new poet around that I should check out - Ms. Gluck. I think I bought the book and gave it to my friend C. in Portland.

You know, it's hard to say why I like any given poem (i.e. is it about the poem, or about what it sparks in you, or is that the same thing, la la la), but I can say at least that this one made me think of a few different things. First, I liked the writing and the way it moved. Second, it made me think of the way I changed my life to join the Foreign Service, the pull of the sea, as it were. (After all, Portland may not be paradise, but it's pretty close.) But last, I think the tone of the poem is one of observing a tragic hero. He doesn't have sense to stay in paradise. I am reminded of the character Jaques in "As You Like It." I really don't know the play well, but I remember being struck by a few lines at the very end, where Jaques is condemned as an itinerant traveler who has no home and will always be melancholy for it. But at the same time, in the poem, I like the way he chooses to feel time moving; there's something vital about that, something that speaks to embracing change and creating his place in the world.

So, putting it all together, for me it's got a kind of triumphant movement with a touch of regret. And I always like melancholy, so... there it is!

At 2:48 AM, Anonymous Shrinkwrap said...

Very good...thanks. I'll look for her poetry next time I'm in Powell's...is there another book store? It's only about five hours from here to Powell's! Poetry has become more a part of my reading life since Holden, I must say. Mary Oliver is my current fav, after the all time one, W.S. (Stafford, not Shakespeare).

At 2:53 AM, Anonymous shrinkwrap said...

Very cool little map of the world and where your visitors are!

At 4:56 AM, Blogger Alizarin said...

I don't know Ms. Gluck, but it's an awesome poem. Like you said, I also like the sense of time moving, of embracing change.

It sounds like she's talking about the Odyssey's beginning, when Odysseus is living in a timeless haze with Kalypso, who is immortal and would keep him so. She's in love with him, and she keeps him on this secret island full of nectar and ambrosia. So time hasn't started, either for him or for the story. What he spends all his time doing when he's there in paradise is stare at the sea sobbing. He's just waiting for the day when he can be free to go home. Like, all day.

Your poem is more than that, too. I really like that line "What has brought us here |will lead us away..." It reminds me of part of a Rumi poem about taverns -- although he's at sort of a different point:

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Locations of visitors to this page