Thursday 7 February 2019

Aubade by Louise Gluck

I'm trying to stretch myself with poetry reading this year.

The best way to attempt this is to use my current novel reading as a springboard into a poem. Whether it be an epigraph, a quote or a reference made within a book, I plan to no longer just read over these parts quickly. Instead I will stop, take note, find the whole poem and consider slowly and purposefully the poem within the context of the book.

I'm currently reading The World was Whole by Fiona Wright. About halfway through is a chapter entitled, The World was Whole, Always where she quotes /A room with a chair, a window.A small window, filled with the patterns light makes./

The image it created was very evocative and I appreciated how Gluck's general description of the room allows each reader to picture their own room, with the own chair, window and patterns of light. But it wasn't until I sourced and read the whole poem that I realised that Wright not only used a line from this poem for the chapter heading, but also for the title of the whole book. 

Further reading about Gluck revealed that she loves to reread Iris Murdoch "I love her wisdom and archness" (from Washington Square Review) and Franz Kafka. She was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa during her teen years and admired Joan of Arc as a child. She won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her latest collection called The Wild Iris.

I also learnt that an aubade is the opposite of a serenade, being a morning love song or a 'song from a door or window to a sleeping woman' (wikipedia). John Donne's poem, The Sunne Rising, is an example of an aubade.

Aubade was first published in 1999 in Vita Nova.



The world was very large. Then
the world was small. O
very small, small enough
to fit in a brain.

It had no color, it was all
interior space: nothing
got in or out. But time
seeped in anyway, that
was the tragic dimension.

I took time very seriously in those years,
if I remember accurately.

A room with a chair, a window.
A small window, filled with the patterns light makes.
In its emptiness the world

was whole always, not
a chip of something, with
the self at the center.

And at the center of the self,
grief I thought I couldn't survive.

A room with a bed, a table. Flashes
of light on the naked surfaces.

I had two desires: desire
to be safe and desire to feel. As though

the world were making
a decision against white
because it disdained potential
and wanted in its place substance:

of gold where the light struck.
In the window, reddish
leaves of the copper beech tree.

Out of the stasis, facts, objects
blurred or knitted together: somewhere

time stirring, time
crying to be touched, to be

the polished wood
shimmering with distinctions--

and then I was once more
a child in the presence of riches
and I didn't know what the riches were made of.

Jennifer @Holds Upon Happiness posts a lovely Poem for a Thursday each week. I love seeing which poem she picks but I rarely feel the urge to join in with one myself. However, today is one of those days when my recent reading provided the push I needed.


  1. Oh, I love this and I am not even sure why. Evocative is the right word for it.

    1. There's something about time crying to be touched that moves me deeply.

  2. What a good idea....stumble upon a poem
    during your reading and investigate.
    I'll try it!
    Not sure if I'll find any poems in my non-fiction read
    The Merchants of Truth
    ...but you never know!


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