Louise Glück

Anniversary by Louise Glück

‘Anniversary’ by Louise Glück contains the words of a cold male speaker to his female partner. These lines, taking place on their anniversary, convey a troubling relationship dynamic.

This piece demonstrates the poet’s skill with language and her ability to convey a great deal in only a few lines. Although there is a little physical description of the man and the woman, breeders are likely going to be able to imagine them quite clearly. Perhaps, one may find themselves relating to one side of the relationship or another or growing angry as they read more of the male speaker’s lines. 

Anniversary by Louise Glück


Summary

Anniversary’ by Louise Glück is a memorable palm that conveys through simple language the coldness and cruelty in a particular relationship.

The poem’s first part is spoken by a male speaker, perhaps a husband or long-term partner. He allows his female partner to sit with him but berates her for everything else she does. She’s too cold. She made the cat move. She put her hand in the wrong place. He patronizes her by speaking to her as though she were a child with no concept of right and wrong. The poem ends with four lines from the woman’s perspective. This powerful report suggests what the man should do when he finds himself looking at a “hot fifteen-year-old.”

You can read the full poem here

Detailed Analysis 

Lines 1-5 

I said you could snuggle. That doesn’t mean

(…)

keep your extremities to yourself.

In the first lines of this poem, the speaker begins by telling someone, likely their partner who is hoping to “snuggle” with them, that they are allowed to “snuggle.” But, their tone is not a warm or passionate one. The speaker addresses their intended listener coldly and without emotion. They use sharp lines that suggest they are not a good or caring partner. The second line is quite striking and surprising. The speaker says that although they told their partner that they could snuggle with them, that doesn’t mean that “your cold feet” can be “all over my dick.” 

Readers are likely to find themselves shocked by this use of language and uncaring remark. The tone does not improve as the lines progress. In the second stanza, which is three lines long, the speaker makes two more direct and insulting statements. They tell the listener that someone should “teach you how to act in bed.” This demeaning statement comes across as incredibly patronizing and rude. They are suggesting that the person they’re talking to is faulty in some way and their desire for intimacy or general closeness with their partner is wrong. 

It’s clear from the fact that the speaker does not allow their partner to respond and the poet did not include another person’s dialogue in this poem (until the last four lines) that the relationship is very controlling. This speaker has all the power and is very willing to assert their dominance over their partner.

Lines 6-9 

Look what you did—

(…)

            I wanted your hand here.

In the next two lines, the speaker blames their partner for something again. They “made the cat move.” This is another assertion that the listener is doing something wrong. But, from the context of the poem, it’s clear that all the other partner wants to do is spend time with the speaker. The cruel language continues in the next two lines, with the speaker demanding that their partner put their hand “here” and not “there.” 

It’s clear that the speaker has some manner of control over their partner. This is made even more troubling by the fact that the poem is titled “Anniversary.” The reader should take from this the fact that these two have been together for a period of time, perhaps a year or more. They may even be married. The listener is in a troubling situation that they do not appear to be able to remove themselves from.

Lines 10-13 

            You should pay attention to my feet.

            (…)

            Because there’s a lot more where those feet come from.

In the final four lines, the poet makes use of several literary devices such as anaphora and enjambment. The husband’s address to his wife earns him the four-line retort that ends the poem. As he has been complaining about her cold feet, she tells him that he should “picture them” the next time he sees a “hot 15-year-old.” 

Likely, she is alluding to the fact that she does for him and puts up with much more than any young woman ever would. Or, readers may also consider the fact that the feet he’s picturing are “cold.” Perhaps in these lines, she said that his rudeness is only going to earn him more coldness on her end as well.

Structure and Form 

Anniversary’ by Louise Glück is a thirteen-line poem that is divided into sets of two lines, or couplets, one set of three lines, or tercet, and one final four-line stanza (also known as a quatrain). The poem is written in free verse. This means that the lines do not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. They vary in length from four words in a line up to ten. 

Literary Devices 

Louise Glück makes use of several literary devices in ‘Anniversary.’ These include but are not limited to: 

  • Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions that appeal to the readers senses. These lines should allow the reader to easily visualize the subject matter the poet is describing. For example: “the next time you see a hot fifteen year old. / Because there’s a lot more where those feet come from.” 
  • Alliteration: occurs when the poet uses the same consonant sounds at the beginning of words. For example, the use of “hand” in lines eight and nine and “pay” and “picture” in the final stanza. 
  • Enjambment: it occurs when the poet cuts off a line before the natural stopping point. It’s particularly effective in this poem. For example, the transition between lines one and two as well as lines four and five. 
  • Anaphora: occurs when the poet repeat the same word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines. For example “You should” at the beginning of the first two lines of the last stanza.


FAQs 

What is the tone of ‘Anniversary?’ 

The tone of the first series of lines, as the husband speaks them, is cold and cruel. They are demanding and even manipulative to some extent. Readers are likely to find themselves turned off by the speaker’s way of addressing his partner. The female partner, perhaps the man’s wife, speaks the final four lines. She is responding to his cruelty with her own coldness. 

What is the purpose of ‘Anniversary?’

The purpose is to, through a few lines, describe the nature of a troubling and cold relationship. It is an “anniversary.” But, despite this, the man and woman who these lines reflect in the poem do not seem to be in any positive place. The male speaker, whose words take up most of the poem, is cruel to his partner and demanding in his needs.

What is Louise Glück known for? 

She is known as a feminist author whose contemporary poetry addresses loneliness, death, and divorce. Her poems are precise, filled with memorable images, and highly relatable. 

Who is the speaker in ‘Anniversary?’

Up until the final four lines of the poem, the speaker is a man. He could be a husband or a long-term partner. The final four lines are spoken by the female partner, perhaps the man’s wife.


Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed ‘Gretel in Darkness’ should also consider reading other Louise Glück poems. For example: 

  • All Hallows’ – explores the nature of Halloween and uses dark and lonely images to depict it.
  • Circe’s Power’ – was published in Meadowlands and is based around the myth of Circe. 
  • Mock Orange’ – uses the orange to symbolize the speaker’s disappointment with life.

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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