‘October’ by Louis Glück is a poem that describes the change in the natural world during October. It is the time of autumn when the earth takes a new shape. It wears the robe of new leaves and transforms into her former self again. The poet highlights the natural change at the beginning of autumn. Her voice seems confused at the sight. She cannot decide either it is the change or she is in a dream. She questions herself repeatedly and answers her musings. This chain of cause and effect somehow gives the poem a new look. Though she is talking about a conventional theme, her thoughts in October are unique.
Summary of October
‘October’ by Louise Glück is a poem about the autumn season. It is the season that brings a change in nature. In the poem, the poet thinks it to be the winter again. To verify the seasonal change she looks around her and starts to question herself. While describing the natural change, she also talks about the painful episodes of her past. In autumn, nature rejuvenates herself from the cold grips of winter. Like nature, she also feels the change in herself. The vines in the back garden especially catch the poet’s attention. The vine has climbed the “south wall” without anyone’s help. The poet implicitly compares herself with the vine. It seems that she has also grown strong like the vine without anyone’s help.
You can read the full poem October here.
Structure of October
‘October’ by Louise Glück is a free verse poem written in the format of question and answer. Actually, there are more questions than answers. However, each question in the poem presents an implied answer of yes or no. There are a total of 28 lines in the poem. The poet divides those lines into 13 short stanzas. Some stanzas have three lines and some have two lines in it. There are only two stanzas in the poem that have only one line in it. Those stanzas mark a shift of subject matter and emphasize a single but important idea in the poem.
There is not any specific rhyme scheme in the poem. The poet contains an internal rhyming pattern that keeps the flow of the poem steady. However, the poet asks several questions in the poem. It seems there is someone who is there with the poet. It can be the poet herself or the readers whom the poet directly welcomes into her poem. For this reason, the poem becomes an example of a dramatic monologue. There’s an interesting thing to mention here. The poem doesn’t contain a full stop. It reflects the continuation of the thoughts in the poet’s mind. This form of writing is called the “stream-of-consciousness” technique.
Literary Devices in October
‘October’ by Louise Glück presents some important literary devices that make the poet’s voice more appealing to the readers. The main literary device used in the poem is an interrogation or rhetorical question. The poem presents the poet’s idea through several questions. Likewise, to connect the lines internally the poet uses an important poetic device called enjambment in the poem. It helps the poet to maintain the flow of the poem. In the first line, the poet presents an antithesis. There is a metonymy in the phrase “spring seeds”. The repetition of the “s” sound in the phrase makes it an example of alliteration.
The poet uses a metaphor in the lines, “didn’t the scar form, invisible/ above the injury”. Here, the “injury” refers to some kind of mental affliction of the poet. The poet uses a metonymy again in the line, “I remember how the earth felt, red and dense”. Here the poet also uses personification by investing the earth with the ability of feeling. The poet uses onomatopoeia in the line, “for the wind’s cries, whistling over the bare ground”. There is an irony in the line where the poet talks about the “sounds” made by the air. However, “the vines” in the poem is actually a metaphor of poetic thoughts and the poet herself.
Analysis of October
Is it winter again, is it cold again,
above the injury
‘October’ by Louise Glück presents the natural change at the beginning of autumn. The poetic persona seems to be perplexed by seeing the change. She thinks it to be the winter. The reference for winter is metaphorical here. She compares winter to suffering. The poetic persona appears to be going through mental suffering. That’s why she can’t believe everything is starting to be normal again.
The winter of life has hardened the poet’s thought. She wants to come out of the cold grips of suffering. There is an urge for a new beginning in her voice. Somehow the past is blocking her sights. The reference to the “scar” and “injury” is the incidents of the past that pains the poet deeply. She has been bearing this pain in her heart for a long time. That’s why the natural change around her seems an illusion of reality.
terror and cold,
didn’t vines climb the south wall
In the next section of the poem, the poet feels that the change has appeared. Still, she can’t believe her eyes. That’s why she goes on to ask questions to herself. The poet can see that her back garden is planted with sprouts. She has planted the seeds before. Now, the seeds have germinated in the autumn. She can see the vines climbing in the south wall of her garden.
In this section, the poet talks about the power of life. The long winters can hinder growth but it can’t destroy life-force. It remains intact. When the winter fades away, there always comes autumn in life. It melts the past and helps a person to start again. In this way, the poet rejuvenated by the essence of autumn moves on with her life.
I can’t hear your voice
the vines, were they harvested?
In the last section, Louise Glück refers to her lack of interest in the seasonal change. Life has taught her a lot. She is now experienced with the changing nature of life. Each change has come to her life and hardened the poet’s mind. Now, the wind doesn’t murmur the sweet songs of romanticism in her ears. Her attitude towards this change has become passive. There was a time when she was excited about such things. In the present moment, she can sense the change but it doesn’t bring excitement to her heart.
In the last few lines, the poet goes through an existential crisis. She thinks about her role and importance in this world. The vines remind her of the natural growth. Change is an essential element of natural growth. Like the vines grow on their own, some changes originated in the poet’s mind organically. She doesn’t know if she is responsible for this change or not. However, at the end of the poem, she accepts the change inside her mind positively and moves on.
Historical Context of October
‘October’ by Louise Glück is a poem with which the poet identifies herself. The season of autumn seems to the poet to be a representation of her life. The poem, ‘October (section I) is the first poem of her poetry collection by the same name. It was published in 2004. From the structure and subject matter of the poem, it becomes clear that this is a postmodern poem. However, Louise Glück received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2020 for her rare poetic talent.
Like ‘October’ by Louise Glück there are several poems that talk about the autumn season. Here is a list of a few of the poetic works that are consonant with the theme of Glück’s poem.
- Sonnet 73: That time of year thou mayst in me behold by William Shakespeare – In this poem by William Shakespeare, the poet metaphorically presents the theme of autumn.
- To Autumn by John Keats – This poem of John Keats refers to the upcoming decay beneath the natural beauty of autumn.
- Fall, Leaves, Fall by Emily Brontë – In this poem, Emily Brontë symbolizes death by referring to the falling leaves.
- Theme in Yellow by Carl Sandburg – Carl Sandburg focuses on the colors of the autumn in his poem.
You can also read about the Best Autumn/Fall Poems here.