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THE SIMPLISTIC AND HUMAN POETRY OF LOUISE GLUCK:

AN ANALYSIS OF “CELESTIAL MUSIC” AND “A FANTASY”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            The poems “Celestial Music” and “A Fantasy” by Louise Gluck both discuss very real and human events in language that is both beautiful and simple to understand. Gluck writes her poems as though she is having a conversation with someone. Unlike some modern poets, Gluck does not overburden the reader with massive amounts of symbolism and flowery language. Her poems are simple and direct with minor amounts of symbolism and careful diction which make her poetry beautiful. The themes of her poems tend to involve a certain element of death. In “Celestial Music”, the speaker discusses herself and a friend who have differing views about God. In “A Fantasy”, the speaker discusses the experience that widows have at a funeral. Both poems are written in a manner which leads the reader to believe that Gluck probably has firsthand experience with the topics. The poems have believable characters and scenarios, accompanied by Gluck’s careful diction.

            “Celestial Music” is a poem written from the perspective of an individual who implies that she does not believe in God. The speaker is on a walk with a friend who does believe in God. As the speaker is discussing her experience, it is imagined that the reader is either another friend, or a family member who does not know the speaker’s God-loving friend. The language that the speaker uses indicates that the subject of God causes her to look down upon her friend. She states, “Not a stupid person, yet with all she knows, she literally talks to God. She thinks someone listens…” The speaker is assuming that she, as an Atheist, is right because she is heavily grounded in her scientific beliefs. The speaker, from the reader’s perspective, is the type of person who believes that because of science and physical proof, her beliefs are more valid than the esoteric beliefs of an individual who believes in God. The poet has created a very typical character in her speaker: the full-blown skeptic.

            The other character in Gluck’s poem is also very believable because she is based off of the persona of Christian people who are strong in their faith. The speaker claims, “My friend says I shut my eyes to God, that nothing else explains my aversion to reality.” She is conveying that because her belief in God is strong, she can handle the somewhat gruesome sight of a dead caterpillar being devoured by ants. She wants her Atheist friend to “wake up” and trust in God in the same manner that she does. It seems that the speaker’s friend draws her strength from her belief in God, and is able to apply it to her life in practical ways. It makes her “courageous”. It is the speaker’s lack of belief and the friend’s belief in God which causes disagreement between the two friends. However, the tone does not convey that the friends disagree to debate, or in a manner which makes them angry with one another. The friends disagree out of the concern for the well-being of the other individual. The speaker feels that her friend is not realistic despite being an intelligent woman, while the friend feels that her friend is shutting her eyes to faith which would allow her to face human trials with the ease of having faith.

            Despite their disagreements, the two friends are able to see beauty in the Earth in their own unique ways. The speaker describes a scenario in which the two friends are walking in snow. She describes the snow covered trees as “brides leaping to a great height”, revealing her ability to see the beauty in nature. Her friend claims that “when you love the world you hear celestial music”, revealing her friend’s belief in the esoteric and magical. Both women are able to see the world as something beautiful and filled with wonder. However, the speaker sees the beauty of the physical world while the friend sees the beauty of the ethereal world. The speaker feels that her friend has been caught in “a net deliberately cast over the earth”, further implying the speaker’s feelings about religion. This quote also reveals on a deeper level the speaker’s concern for her friend. The speaker seems concerned that her friend has been brainwashed by the hive-mind of religion, and wishes that her friend would open her eyes to the freedom of the atheistic mindset.

The characters of the speaker and her friend in Celestial Music is quite believable, and the scenario of an Atheist and a Christian going on a walk together while having moments in which they disagree about the other’s beliefs is quite plausible. Gluck is able to capture a scenario in which two friends have differing beliefs and are legitimately concerned over the well-being of the other person. The diction in the poem does not embody that of two people who disrespectfully taunt each other about their beliefs. Instead, it has the tone of two friends who simply to be around good company, and want what they individually believe is best for each other. In “Celestial Music” Gluck is able to capture the beauty of true friendship by emphasizing the concerns that two friends might have for one another.

            “A Fantasy” is a poem which describes the experiences of people who are in attendance at a funeral. The title is interesting because it does not describe a fantasy which has magical creatures or myth attached to it. Instead the title is describing the fantasy held by those who have recently lost their loved one and wish that they could be with them again, if only for a moment. The tone of the poem indicates that the speaker is very familiar with the experiences of widows. The manner in which the speaker discusses the experience of being a new widow implies that the speaker has either been a widow herself, or is involved at the funeral home in some significant way. In either case, it is clear that the speaker intimately understands the pain that widows experience when their husbands die.

The title “A Fantasy” is appropriate for describing the mask that the widow must put on at the funeral. The widow does not want to be there in the slightest. She is showing gratitude toward her friends for the sake of her friends, but in truth, she wants to mourn in solitude. The “stately” look that the widow has is all that she can do to hold herself together and continue the illusion. The theme of the fantasy appears throughout the poem. The speaker explains that some of the widows are “frightened of crying”. These widows, the speaker implies, are afraid that if they cry then it means they have accepted the passing of their husband: they have moved out of denial and into their expressions of grief. During the burial ceremony, the speaker claims that someone must lean over and “tell them what to do next”. This statement implies that the widow is truly inexperienced in dealing with death on such a great level, and needs to have someone explain to her how she is supposed to be acting during the funeral. It also implies that the widow is an actor in the funeral ceremony, designed to make the death of the husband easier on all of his friends and relatives. The widow must remain composed and “stately” throughout the funeral ceremony and afterward, but it is all an illusion to make the people who knew her husband feel more comfortable.

The widow does not want to be at the funeral, and does not want to accept that her husband has passed away. She is kind to everyone who has come to the funeral, but wants them to leave her alone so she can grieve, and possibly turn back time to begin her life with him all over again. The tone indicates that the widow wants to enjoy sweet memories of her husband alone, while also indicating that the widow may literally want a magical moment in which she gets a chance at life with her husband one more time. The speaker states, “But it’s her only hope, the wish to move backward. And just a little, not so far as the marriage, the first kiss.” The first kiss has two meanings. Of course, the widow would want to go back to the literal first kiss and begin all over again. The manner in which it is written, however, claims that the widow would even be content with going back to her first kiss before her husband became ill. The phrase “not so far as the marriage” would mean that she does not want to go back that far. Chronologically, the first kiss would happen when the couple began dating. Therefore, it seems that the speaker could be talking about a kiss that was recent.

            The poem is written about the experiences of widows at death. The diction and tone of the poem, as well as the subject matter, make the poem very believable. The poem is written from a place of understanding in which the speaker has either experienced the scenario herself or has seen the scenario quite often. The description of the widow’s grief and confusion at the death of her husband implies that while death may be painful for friends and relatives, no one knows the pain of death quite like a widow. In the beginning of the poem, the widow is compared to an orphan. This statement is accurate and embodies exactly what the widow is experiencing at the funeral. She is both shocked, and frightened at how she will be able to live her life on her own after having been with the man that she loved for so long.

            Both “A Fantasy” and “Celestial Music” are well-written poems which discuss scenarios that are very easy to imagine happening in real life. The scenarios described also touch upon what it means to be human. “A Fantasy” touches upon grief and denial, while “Celestial Music” touches upon friendship and concern. Both poems are written in a very direct manner, as if the speaker is having a conversation with either the reader or with a friend. The conversational manner of the poems contributes to the simple yet careful language used by the poet. Gluck does not make elaborate comparisons that are difficult to follow. Instead she chooses to use words which may have two meanings, but still allow the reader to follow along with the basic story that she is attempting to convey. Gluck’s poems leave the reader with few, if any, questions about the meaning of the poem. However, the language is still complex enough for the reader to draw their own conclusions about the meaning of the poetry. Louise Gluck is a wonderful poet who is able to capture the essence of what it means to be human in her poetry and is able to write about it in a very human way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Gluck, Louise. "A Fantasy." Poem Hunter. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2015. <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/a-fantasy/>.

Gluck, Louise. "Celestial Music." Poem Hunter. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2015. <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/celestial-music/>.

 

Subject English
Due By (Pacific Time) 10/20/2015 12:00 am
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