NONFICTION

PROOFS & THEORIES: Essays on Poetry by Louise Gluck. (Ecco: $22; 144 pp.) Louise Gluck is compassionate and bottomless and smart. With this book she becomes the patron saint of poets and writers, having fallen and crawled and scared herself to a completely non-smug position from which she reticently gives advice. The writer's life, she says on the very first page is dignified "by yearning, not made serene by sensations of achievement." She discards the fantasy of the poet as lawless outsider: "It seems to me that the idea of lawlessness is a romance, and romance is what I most struggle to be free of." She encourages courage in "facing down dark forces," calls the actual making of art a "revenge on circumstance," because it is that rare time when the artist is "no longer acted upon but acting," extols the virtues of white space and silence in poetry, claiming that poetry which leaves out nothing is "like a thoroughly cleaned room, it paralyzes activity." She admires both recognizable perspective or voice (momentum toward a conclusion) in poetry as well as those poets like Robert Hass who "resist resolution." "Whatever the truth is," she writes, "to speak it is a great adventure."

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