Read of the Week: Averno by Louise Glück


We’re delving back into poetry for this week’s Read. Reader Leader Kate recommends Louise Glück’s collection Averno.

It grieves me to think

the dead won’t see them-

these things we depend upon,

they disappear.

What will the soul do for solace then?

I tell myself maybe it won’t need

these pleasures anymore;

maybe just not being is simply enough,

hard as that is to imagine.

Louise Glück, The Night Migration

A small crater lake in southern Italy, Averno was regarded by the Romans as the entrance to the ancient underworld. Throughout this poetry collection, Louise Glück blends classic mythology with eternal musings, taking us to the depths of the underworld and back, in poems which explore the afterlife, love, isolation, oblivion, and the soul.

Never afraid to pose the ‘big’ questions, the beauty of this collection lies, for me, in the way each poem denies us a neat resolution, instead encouraging us to reflect on the nature of death and the afterlife in an entirely human way.

Philosophical and yet full of feeling, these poems have haunted me, in the best possible sense of the word, for the last decade. Whilst death is a recurring theme, we are also left wondering about life- its purpose, its beauty, and the things that help to propel us through it. Despite their obvious darkness, the poems in Averno shine a light on some of the most enduring thoughts and questions of our existence in a manner that does not fail, in my view, to be both thought-provoking and captivating.

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