1.7.07

in the grip of the narrative...

In the myth of the Garden, the forbidden exerts over the susceptible human mind irresistible allure. The force of this allure is absolute, final; the fact of it shapes, ever afterward, human character and the human vision of human destiny. The myth’s potency derives from the fact that there is no going back: exile and contamination occur once, the explicit descent which is the lovers’ punishment becomes a permanent burden or affliction. Which is to say: the myth is tragic.
        It is a great theme—it can turn a good poet into a great poet. Its grandeur and utility explain, in part, its magnetism.
But the charm doesn’t always work, and many fine writers, in the grip of the narrative if not the theme, are beguiled into impassioned production of disappointing art.
....

I don’t think our society’s addiction to exhibitionism and obsession with progress (a narrow myth for triumph) completely explain the ease with which survivors have begun to show their wounds, making a kind of caste of isolation, competing in the previously un-permitted arena of personal shame. And the fact remains that authentic examples of transmuted suffering make plain what is missing from so many accounts.

             – Louise Glück, “The Forbidden,” Proofs & Theories

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An interesting discussion – Glück explores the dark thematic material of several writers: Linda McCarriston, Sharon Olds, Carolyn Forché, Martha Rhodes – and champions the work of Frank Bidart.

4 comments:

poet with a day job said...

Sam - thanks for bringing this to my attention - I love the topic (and Gluck), so will definitely be picking this up. When I got to the end I said "whoa:" I certainly would not want to be on the poison end of Gluck's pen! I wonder what she's saying about Martha Rhodes, who in my opinion is a good poet, but nowhere near McCarriston, Olds and Forche - and I wonder what she's saying about them if championing Bidart!

sam of the ten thousand things said...

It's a great essay, Melissa. Very surprising in its content. She focuses on McCarriston's Eva-Mary, Olds' The Father, Forché's The Country Between Us, an unpublished manuscript by Rhodes, and Bidart's In the Western Night.

Suzanne said...

Thanks for this, Sam.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

I appreciate the read, Suzanne.