“The Garment” Louise Gluck

from Modern American Poetry

The Garment

                —Louise Gluck

My soul dried up.

Like a soul cast into a fire, but not completely,

not to annihilation.  Parched,

it continued.  Brittle,

not from solitude but from mistrust,

the aftermath of violence.

Spirit, invited to leave the body,

to stand exposed a moment, —

trembling, as before

your presentation to the divine–

spirit lured out of solitude

by the promise of grace,

how will you ever again believe

the love of another being?

My soul withered and shrank.

The body became for it too large a garment.

And when hope was returned to me

it was another hope entirely.

Survivor/Confessional Poets and Poems I Love

(photo by AlisonTyne at Etsy)

I have found a number of poets and poems that really get to me–poems about surviving. These amazing poets have a found somehow (I try desperately to do this but am not quite there yet) how to make their suffering/survival/abuse/ lesson/narrative universal. In my poems I have such a hard time weighing–is it too much “I”, too personal, too confessional. Maybe I just need to say the hell with it, and keep writing, developing.

My favorite poet (that I consider Confessional, Post-confessional, Modern-Confessional–whatever) is Amy Gerstler (you can go to her links and bio on my sidebar). When I talk about making surviving universal, to see what I mean check out Amy’s poem “Lost in the Forest.” It is stunning, the ending image takes your breath away, makes you open up somewhere inside, and relate. And she says so much without actually saying it–the details are metaphorical. How has she accomplished this? I also think of Silvia Plath–in particular: Child. (I love her constant references to moon and bone). The way she has it all so balanced–the poem’s story, and then its last line–BAM. And of course, Anne Sexton–the first time I listened to The Double Image I cried (ok maybe because it was WAY TOO close to home, but it was so original).

Nick Flynn (especially in “Father Outside” and maybe “Self-Exam”–I have yet to read his poetry book Some Ether, dying to) also has his own, ripped out, raw way of showing a truth, writing the facts, the situation, what happened (beautifully) without involving his emotion, but your emotions get involved, and what happens is we assume a deep, deep ache and loss and lots of pain, but living with it, getting over it, but knowing it was there.

And let’s not forget Sharon Olds, my second favorite. Satan Says blew me outa the water. I read the whole book (ok, it’s little) as fast as I could, I was so taken up, shocked, and in love with her honesty and again–I could relate. She is more specific, so how does she make it work? It’s not less universal though you think it would be. How, people, HOW?!

I’d like to share a poem by Lisel Mueller from the book The Armless Maiden (recommended for all those who’ve been through childhood abuse):

Bedtime Story

–by Lisel Mueller


The moon lies on the river

like a drop of oil. Read More