Marigold and Rose: A Fiction

Farrar. Oct. 2022. 64p. ISBN 9780374607586. $18. F
After two essay collections and a baker’s dozen books of poetry, this latest from Nobel Prize winner Glück offers a formal pivot, even as it remains thematically of a piece. Billed somewhat winkingly as “A Fiction,” this concise work tells the story of twin girls across the first year of their lives. Tonally situated somewhere between fairy tale and picture book, Glück’s story takes the shape of an internal-dialogue two hander, moving between the contrasting observations and personalities of the twinfants: Marigold is an interior child; Rose a confident “extrovert.” Alternating between rudimentary experiences of the baby years—bath time; comparisons between Mother and Father—and existential quandaries about identity, time, and, specifically, language, Glück works toward the expression of a complex, nuanced emotionality cut through at times with profound wonder, at others deep melancholy. This particular shade of fabulism is a logical entry point for a poet, using the acquisition of language and its mystery as a jumping-off point for ontological inquiry: “everything will disappear but I will know many words.” But while the narrative can be quite clever in spurts, any intellectual heft is more teased than developed, and the poet’s typically graceful language takes a backseat to the story’s lightweight allegorical playfulness.
VERDICT A sly, winsome tale; of interest to longtime Glück fans and easily digestible for all readers, but failing to rise above the level of charming trifle.
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