Louise Gluck’s thirteenth book of poems is among her most haunting. Here, as in The Wild Iris, there is a chorus, but the speakers are entirely human, simultaneously spectral and ancient. Winter Recipes from the Collective is chamber music, an invitation into that privileged realm small enough for the individual instrument to make itself heard, dolente, its line sustained, carried, and then taken up by the next instrument, spirited, animoso, while at the same time being large enough to contain a whole lifetime, the inconceivable gifts and losses of old age, the little princesses rattling in the back of a car, an abandoned passport, the ingredients of an invigorating winter sandwich, a sister’s death, the joyful presence of the sun, its brightness measured by the darkness it casts. “Some of you will know what I mean,” the poet says, by which she means, some of you will follow me. Hers is the sustaining presence, the voice containing all our lifetimes, “all the worlds, each more beautiful than the last.” This magnificent book couldn’t have been written by anyone else, nor could it have been written by the poet at any other time in her life.
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