Peter Gizzi: The baleful stare of the lyric genius?

Neither Gizzi nor Gluck are in Dove’s anthology, but both are in the 2012 March Madness Dance.

Gluck recently retired from her role as Yale Younger Judge, so she might feel a bit lonely these days.  (Carl Phillips, the current judge, is in Dove’s anthology.)

Here is Gluck’s poem that hopes to advance:


When Hades decided he loved this girl
he built for her a duplicate of earth,
everything the same, down to the meadow,
but with a bed added.

Everything the same, including sunlight,
because it would be hard on a young girl
to go so quickly from bright light to utter darkness

Gradually, he thought, he’d introduce the night,
first as the shadows of fluttering leaves.
Then moon, then stars. Then no moon, no stars.
Let Persephone get used to it slowly.
In the end, he thought, she’d find it comforting.

A replica of earth
except there was love here.
Doesn’t everyone want love?

He waited many years,
building a world, watching
Persephone in the meadow.
Persephone, a smeller, a taster.
If you have one appetite, he thought,
you have them all.

Doesn’t everyone want to feel in the night
the beloved body, compass, polestar,
to hear the quiet breathing that says
I am alive, that means also
you are alive, because you hear me,
you are here with me. And when one turns,
the other turns—

That’s what he felt, the lord of darkness,
looking at the world he had
constructed for Persephone. It never crossed his mind
that there’d be no more smelling here,
certainly no more eating.

Guilt? Terror? The fear of love?
These things he couldn’t imagine;
no lover ever imagines them.

He dreams, he wonders what to call this place.
First he thinks: The New Hell. Then: The Garden.
In the end, he decides to name it
Persephone’s Girlhood.

A soft light rising above the level meadow,
behind the bed. He takes her in his arms.
He wants to say I love you, nothing can hurt you

but he thinks
this is a lie, so he says in the end
you’re dead, nothing can hurt you
which seems to him
a more promising beginning, more true.

Leave it to a modern interpretation of a popular myth to drain all the excitement and adventure and heroism and humanity out of it.

Gluck’s Persephone is victimized in the most horrific way; she’s strangely absent, and yet, occupies the whole poem—she’s the mere object of Hades grim calculation: “duplicate of earth…with bed added” could not be more terrible.  But the final: not “I love you,” but “you’re dead” is perhaps even worse.   Hades is the entire soul of the poem.

We might congratulate Ms. Gluck on her portrayal of Hades.  Or—not.

Peter Gizzi is a lyricist of the odd.  He writes odd poems, like this:


If love if then if now if the flowers of if the conditional
if of arrows the condition of if
if to say light to inhabit light if to speak if to live, so
if to say it is you if love is if your form is if your waist that
pictures the fluted stem if lavender
if in this field
if I were to say hummingbird it might behave as an
adjective here
if not if the heart’s a flutter if nerves map a city if a city
on fire
if I say myself am I saying myself (if in this instant) as if
the object of your gaze if in a sentence about love you might
write if one day if you would, so
if to say myself if in this instance if to speak as
if only to render if in time and accept if to live now as if
disembodied from the actual handwritten letters m-y-s-e-l-f
if a creature if what you say if only to embroider—a
city that overtakes the city I write.

This poem doesn’t make any sense.

It is difficult to read.

If one were to listen to this poem in a relaxed setting, one might possibly believe it were the most wonderful poem in the world.

It is difficult to reconcile these three statements—which may be the reason why modern poetry is such a puzzle to so many.

Gluck 67 Gizzi 62

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