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  • NYS Writers Institute

Louise Glück: "...I must report failure in my assignment, principally regarding the tomato plants"



It's fitting we post a poem by Louise Glück -- the 2020 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature -- for Poetry Friday today, the final day for the NYS Summer Writers Institute, an event she participated in for more than 30 summers.


8 p.m. Friday, July 21

Gannett Auditorium, Palamountain Hall,

Skidmore College campus in Saratoga Springs


Vespers [In your extended absence, you permit me] By Louise Glück


In your extended absence, you permit me use of earth, anticipating some return on investment. I must report failure in my assignment, principally regarding the tomato plants. I think I should not be encouraged to grow tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold the heavy rains, the cold nights that come so often here, while other regions get twelve weeks of summer. All this belongs to you: on the other hand, I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly multiplying in the rows. I doubt you have a heart, in our understanding of that term. You who do not discriminate between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence, immune to foreshadowing, you may not know how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf, the red leaves of the maple falling even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible for these vines. From The Wild Iris. Copyright © 1992 by Louise Glück

Louise Glück was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her poetry has also been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for The Wild Iris (1992) and the National Book Award for Faithful and Virtuous Night (2014).


Robert Boyers, director of the NYS Summer Writers Institute, wrote an appreciation of Louise Glück published in The Nation, (December 10, 2012):


"[Glück] has been not only a resourceful and versatile poet but also an astonishingly brave one. Brave in what sense? In the way she has steadily enlarged her range and idiom, working, to be sure, within the compass of her own nature, but ever testing the limits of her gift, so that the impression made by the work as a whole is not of limitation but of an overwhelming fullness of invention and abundance of life.


Glück’s poems at their best have always moved between recoil and affirmation, sensuous immediacy and reflection. She has found ways to engage with the world as it is without capitulating to its felt demand that she renounce any alternative sense of what is real.


For a poet who can often seem earthbound and defiantly unillusioned, she has been powerfully responsive to the lure of the daily miracle and the sudden upsurge of overmastering emotion."

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