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The First Four Books of Poems

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The fierce, austerely beautiful voice that has become Glück's trademark speaks in these poems of a life lived in unflinching awareness. Includes "Firstborn", "The House on Marshland", "Descending Figure", and "The Triumph of Achilles". The fierce, austerely beautiful voice that has become Glück's trademark speaks in these poems of a life lived in unflinching awareness. Includes "Firstborn", "The House on Marshland", "Descending Figure", and "The Triumph of Achilles".


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The fierce, austerely beautiful voice that has become Glück's trademark speaks in these poems of a life lived in unflinching awareness. Includes "Firstborn", "The House on Marshland", "Descending Figure", and "The Triumph of Achilles". The fierce, austerely beautiful voice that has become Glück's trademark speaks in these poems of a life lived in unflinching awareness. Includes "Firstborn", "The House on Marshland", "Descending Figure", and "The Triumph of Achilles".

30 review for The First Four Books of Poems

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Gluck's poetry focuses on emotions living just below a tranquil domesticity. Many of these poems seem angry or resentful of isolation within a relationship, but the language is moving enough to make each stanza evoke empathy. Through it all is the theme of mature love and what it means to maintain a relationship over time. Gluck contrasts the movement of seasons and nature with phases of love and home-life, monogamy and adultery (spiritual, if not physical) and inevitable reconciliation. Technic Gluck's poetry focuses on emotions living just below a tranquil domesticity. Many of these poems seem angry or resentful of isolation within a relationship, but the language is moving enough to make each stanza evoke empathy. Through it all is the theme of mature love and what it means to maintain a relationship over time. Gluck contrasts the movement of seasons and nature with phases of love and home-life, monogamy and adultery (spiritual, if not physical) and inevitable reconciliation. Technically, I love her work. The language is clear and unadorned. Her cadences move you through each piece effortlessly, and control the read very tightly. She'll slow your pace at just the right moment; it's like reading a "stinger" note from a movie score sometimes. A great collection.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    I've been a fan of Louise Glück for a long time, but was never able to articulate why I liked her writing so much. And then I met someone who had also read a great deal of Glück's poetry, and she said, "I like her work because it penetrates." I've never found a better description of the effect her writing has on me. It penetrates. I've been a fan of Louise Glück for a long time, but was never able to articulate why I liked her writing so much. And then I met someone who had also read a great deal of Glück's poetry, and she said, "I like her work because it penetrates." I've never found a better description of the effect her writing has on me. It penetrates.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eliana Chow

    Glück will always be one of my favorite poets. :’) Of the four books in this collection, “The Triumph of Achilles” was my favorite.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dylan CC

    this is how to put small words into big empty places. it is an influence because it becomes the sounds you hear in your head. it is an old instrument played in a sad way a few rooms away.

  5. 4 out of 5

    James

    Gahering and republishing the award-winning poet's first books (i.e., Firstborn: Poems, The House on Marshland, Descending Figure, and Triumph of Achilles) in one collection is a great opportunity to watch her growth as her poet. She is particularly good at visiting mythology and imbuing it with humanity. Highly recommended. Gahering and republishing the award-winning poet's first books (i.e., Firstborn: Poems, The House on Marshland, Descending Figure, and Triumph of Achilles) in one collection is a great opportunity to watch her growth as her poet. She is particularly good at visiting mythology and imbuing it with humanity. Highly recommended.

  6. 4 out of 5

    K.C. Bratt-Pfotenhauer

    Glück has always been one of my favorite poets, and for me, the best thing about this collection was seeing her progression throughout her first four books. Each of them is so unique, but my favorite would be "Descending Figure." Glück has always been one of my favorite poets, and for me, the best thing about this collection was seeing her progression throughout her first four books. Each of them is so unique, but my favorite would be "Descending Figure."

  7. 4 out of 5

    A. Collins

    Hmm, I'd like to revisit this, especially her book The Triumph of Achilles. From Marathon: "6 THE BEGINNING I had come to a strange city, without belongings: in the dream, it was your city, I was looking for you. Then I was lost, on a dark street lined with fruit stands. There was only one fruit: blood oranges. The markets made displays of them, beautiful displays— how else could they compare? And each arrangement has, at its center, one fruit, cut open. Then I was on a boulevard, in brilliant sunlight. I Hmm, I'd like to revisit this, especially her book The Triumph of Achilles. From Marathon: "6 THE BEGINNING I had come to a strange city, without belongings: in the dream, it was your city, I was looking for you. Then I was lost, on a dark street lined with fruit stands. There was only one fruit: blood oranges. The markets made displays of them, beautiful displays— how else could they compare? And each arrangement has, at its center, one fruit, cut open. Then I was on a boulevard, in brilliant sunlight. I was running; it was easy to run, since I had nothing. In the distance, I could see your house; a woman knelt in the yard. There were roses everywhere; in waves, they climbed the high trellis. Then what began as love for you became a hunger for structure: I could hear the woman call to me in common kindness, knowing I wouldn't ask for you anymore— So it was settled: I could have a childhood there. Which came to mean being always alone."

  8. 5 out of 5

    SA

    I picked this up because I wanted to familiarize myself more with Gluck after being blown away by The Wild Iris. This collection is very much a reflection of early, less skilled work; in a way it's fascinating to watch her slow progression to the themes and structures that reflect her mature works. But most of the time my eyes were at best scanning the verse, trying to get through each poem and keep moving forward. It's a handy volume, though, as many of the early books are now out of print apar I picked this up because I wanted to familiarize myself more with Gluck after being blown away by The Wild Iris. This collection is very much a reflection of early, less skilled work; in a way it's fascinating to watch her slow progression to the themes and structures that reflect her mature works. But most of the time my eyes were at best scanning the verse, trying to get through each poem and keep moving forward. It's a handy volume, though, as many of the early books are now out of print apart from this collection.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    It's very enlightening to see LG's progression as a poet over the course of her first book collections. I didn't think much of her work at first, but by the third and fourth books, I was really getting into the poems. There is a lot that can be learned from approaching this book as an artistic historical object. It's very enlightening to see LG's progression as a poet over the course of her first book collections. I didn't think much of her work at first, but by the third and fourth books, I was really getting into the poems. There is a lot that can be learned from approaching this book as an artistic historical object.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Erica French

    These words....from one poem to the next took me places I've been before but forgotten, reminded me of things I've felt and misplaced....lines that burst out of the page and poem, thoughts that led to more of my own thoughts...too good too read just once. These words....from one poem to the next took me places I've been before but forgotten, reminded me of things I've felt and misplaced....lines that burst out of the page and poem, thoughts that led to more of my own thoughts...too good too read just once.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Peacejanz

    Last year, Louise Gluck was awarded the Nobel Literature Prize - a great honor for three reasons. First, she is a US citizens and we need anything that is good to brag about with out president and covid both damaging us. Secondly, she is a woman. More men that women win Nobel prizes. Thirdly, she is a poet and they rarely win the Nobel prize. When I heard that she won, I realized that I had never really studied her poetry, which has won many prizes through the years, but I have just read one of Last year, Louise Gluck was awarded the Nobel Literature Prize - a great honor for three reasons. First, she is a US citizens and we need anything that is good to brag about with out president and covid both damaging us. Secondly, she is a woman. More men that women win Nobel prizes. Thirdly, she is a poet and they rarely win the Nobel prize. When I heard that she won, I realized that I had never really studied her poetry, which has won many prizes through the years, but I have just read one of her poems here and there. I was lucky enough to find this volume which has her first four books of poetry in one book. So I have been reading it, a couple of poems at a time. Her work is quite deep - one has to think about her poetry to get the meaning and I admit I did not always understand but some poems are touching. I did not realize she was such a feminist. She writes a lot about nature, love, lust, death. There is a lot of dark, night imagery, sometimes lost on me. But she can be witty also. In her third book, one poem is titled, "The fear of love." The following poem is titled, "The fear of death." There are also lovely phrases such as, "How much beauty can a person bear?" Another phrase is universal, "It isn't easy to want so much." This is a wonderful book that I will go back to many times. The ideal would be to sit in an advanced poetry class and listen to discussion and have the professor explain some of the references. Hooray for Louise Gluck! A wonderful book that will be read over and over.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Dunlap

    This book was self-recommending after its author won the 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature. True confession: I am not very fond of modern (contemporary) poetry -- much of the time, I simply do not understand it. Such was the case with many of the works in this volume, which compiles (perhaps a bit embarrassedly, to judge from the author's brief comments at the outset) the first four collections of Louise Gluck's work. Nevertheless, I found a number of the poems very good indeed -- and I was much t This book was self-recommending after its author won the 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature. True confession: I am not very fond of modern (contemporary) poetry -- much of the time, I simply do not understand it. Such was the case with many of the works in this volume, which compiles (perhaps a bit embarrassedly, to judge from the author's brief comments at the outset) the first four collections of Louise Gluck's work. Nevertheless, I found a number of the poems very good indeed -- and I was much taken by the sharpness of the poet's imagery and her brilliant turns of phrase. Lovers of poetry, especially that being written in our times, need not hesitate!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Idriss

    Beautiful, the parables are a trip, the narrations take interesting twists, and the love she has towards others in her life mirror the level of self examination in the poems. Most poems somehow reminded me of someone from my childhood, the memories are described vividly enough to do so, with intense attention paid to small details such as dust, mild fragrances, and the absence of leave-rustling wind. All in all, an evocative delight.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    Glück's imagination is rich and supple when turned loose on classical themes (Pomegranate, Triumph Of Achilles) and the universal topics of sex, mortality, and solitude. What bind the poems together are Glück's economy of language and her capacity - this is hard to describe - to jostle or stir a reader at depth. Glück's imagination is rich and supple when turned loose on classical themes (Pomegranate, Triumph Of Achilles) and the universal topics of sex, mortality, and solitude. What bind the poems together are Glück's economy of language and her capacity - this is hard to describe - to jostle or stir a reader at depth.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Megan RFA

    Pretty annoyed with myself for having not read Gluck at length before now. What strange and beautiful poetry. This collection crafts a striking world half blended with myth and shuddering with the uncanny. I'm intrigued and want to read her entire body of work. Pretty annoyed with myself for having not read Gluck at length before now. What strange and beautiful poetry. This collection crafts a striking world half blended with myth and shuddering with the uncanny. I'm intrigued and want to read her entire body of work.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Zeinab Issa

    3,5 actually. Really interesting introduction to Glück and her style, tho some poems did feel a bit unpolished here and there. Really enjoyed The house on the marshland and Descending figure. Was deeply touched by some parts, and glanced through other. Decent collection to start with nonetheless!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Diane Henry

    Not what I need/want at this time. They are not bad poems at all, but they also offer no comfort and that is what I was hoping to find.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Thompson

    This collection of four books in one is particularly cool because it's fascinating to watch how Glück's poetry style has changed over time. This collection of four books in one is particularly cool because it's fascinating to watch how Glück's poetry style has changed over time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Zosia K

    Favorite poems, in no particular order: 1. Phenomenal Survivals of Death in Nantucket 2. Gretel in Darkness 3. The Tree House 4. Returning a Lost Child 5. Dedication to Hunger

  20. 5 out of 5

    helene

    louis glück we don’t deserve this this is so freaking good!!!! 😵‍💫

  21. 5 out of 5

    Camille

    Louise Glück's poetry is as unguarded and harsh as it is refined and absolute; it is uncompromising in its thought and elegant in execution. Louise Glück's poetry is as unguarded and harsh as it is refined and absolute; it is uncompromising in its thought and elegant in execution.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ramona Fisher

    The poems in this book, of her earliest poems, progressed into her expected brilliance. As a poet, she can slice through to the center, to the essence of life.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    Glück’s every word is urgent and raw and achingly human. Her early work should be read by all

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This one is difficult to rate. On one hand I truly didn't enjoy first three books of poems. There were a couple poems here and there I enjoyed, but I disliked the over all style. I found the Triumph of Achilles (the fourth book) very beautiful. On the other hand I love Gluck's work so much that I'm really glad I read those earlier books, just so I could see the journey of her style, her history. It's a weird paradox of not enjoying reading something but being very happy I did. Despite all that i This one is difficult to rate. On one hand I truly didn't enjoy first three books of poems. There were a couple poems here and there I enjoyed, but I disliked the over all style. I found the Triumph of Achilles (the fourth book) very beautiful. On the other hand I love Gluck's work so much that I'm really glad I read those earlier books, just so I could see the journey of her style, her history. It's a weird paradox of not enjoying reading something but being very happy I did. Despite all that it might just be worth having this collection so that I have the Triumph of Achilles to read again.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alisha

    This is a collection of Louise Gluck's early work. I liked a lot of the poems in this book, but some of them were rough, some were bland, and some lacked the punch that her later work has. It's interesting to read her earlier writing and compare it with how she writes now, but I do prefer her later work- The Wild Iris and such- to this. This is a collection of Louise Gluck's early work. I liked a lot of the poems in this book, but some of them were rough, some were bland, and some lacked the punch that her later work has. It's interesting to read her earlier writing and compare it with how she writes now, but I do prefer her later work- The Wild Iris and such- to this.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I've rated this a 3, but it really ranges from 2 to 4: I dislike the rhyming, chiming preciosity in her earliest work, but the later books have more of the clarity and elegance I so prize in Averno and Vita Nova. Overall, anything of Louise Gluck's comes highly recommended by me, including this book. I've rated this a 3, but it really ranges from 2 to 4: I dislike the rhyming, chiming preciosity in her earliest work, but the later books have more of the clarity and elegance I so prize in Averno and Vita Nova. Overall, anything of Louise Gluck's comes highly recommended by me, including this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tom Romig

    I need to approach the work of Louise Gluck with focus and patience, often rereading and reading aloud. Her vision is relentlessly honest, tending towards what is impermanent, what causes longing and loss. This isn't as bleak as it sounds since with this vision shapes in the reader a deeper, more nuanced, more meaningful understanding of life and relationships. I need to approach the work of Louise Gluck with focus and patience, often rereading and reading aloud. Her vision is relentlessly honest, tending towards what is impermanent, what causes longing and loss. This isn't as bleak as it sounds since with this vision shapes in the reader a deeper, more nuanced, more meaningful understanding of life and relationships.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This was my proper introduction to Louise. I think I tend to be more fond of her earlier work, this is my favorite "book" of her's I've read. (I say that in quotes because it's the first four books complied.) I'm in love with this book. This was my proper introduction to Louise. I think I tend to be more fond of her earlier work, this is my favorite "book" of her's I've read. (I say that in quotes because it's the first four books complied.) I'm in love with this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gary McDowell

    I used to love this book. Now I don't. I feel like she's very similar to W.S. Merwin and I much prefer his work these days. But this book was, at one time, super important to me. I still love many of the poems. I used to love this book. Now I don't. I feel like she's very similar to W.S. Merwin and I much prefer his work these days. But this book was, at one time, super important to me. I still love many of the poems.

  30. 4 out of 5

    prashant

    ‘the hills are far away. they rise up blacker than childhood. what do you think of, lying so quietly by the water? when you look that way i want to touch you, but do not, seeing as in another life we were of the same blood’ AAAAAAHHHHHH

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