Odysseus' Decision by Louise Gluck

I chose Louise Gluck's poem "Odysseus' Decision" excerpted from her larger collection MeadowlandsMeadowlands reinterprets the Homeric epic through the eyes of Penelope, whose patient weaving is transformed into an act of defiance against her husband, suitors, and son.  It is interwoven with the conversations of a modern couple and follows the dissolution of the two marriages.  In the selected poem, readers find Odysseus on Calypso's island, weeping.  Louise Gluck uses the poem to subvert the themes of The Odyssey-- in her version, Odysseus is making the decision to cut ties from his lover and his wife.

I have the good/bad habit of writing notes on scraps of cardboard- the less valuable I see them, the more I'm willing to think outside the box!

As a standalone poem, "Odysseus' Decision" reads quite clearly; however, within the context of Meadowlands and The Odyssey, the experience is much richer.

Images specific to the poem are:

-a great man

-clear pools, olive trees, cyprus (a lush paradise of some kind)

-pulse and wave as imagery for the sea

-meadowlands: as the name of the overarching piece.  meadowlands are an image associated with temptation and toxicity to both couples.

As concepts fitting into the larger scheme of the book, we have:

-time: Odysseus is constantly looking forward, contrasted against Penelope's static resentment and the modern couples stagnant, impatient relationship.  One of the most powerful moments occurs in line 5: "...by the clear pools under the cypress.  Time / begins now..."  The pause issues in a new tempo and sets the tone.

-loss: Odysseus experiences a very different loss from his wife-- he yearns for the sea and what it represents (via "pulse" and "wave")

-nostos: The major theme of The Odyssey is this concept of nostalgia.  In the original, Odysseus is weeping on Calypso's island (a lush, tropical land) because he misses his home (rocky and infertile).  Louise Gluck's Odysseus rejects both of his lovers, turning nostos into a much more restless yearning.

TL;DR: The Odyssey's titular character is engaged entirely with his homeland, despite countless perils + temptations along the way.  Meadowlands' Odysseus rejects both island paradise and wife to experience these perils + temptations.

The ideas I was most attracted to were:

-still vs moving water


-opposites (rocky Ithaca vs. lush islands ; two lovers as being on polarized ends)

-inverting normal images

-weaving + "cutting ties" (Penelope weaves, Odysseus leaves)

Basically, my goal was to integrate Odysseus' viewpont into the overall themes of Meadowlands

Sketches below (starred ones felt the most powerful to me) :

And some tests with my rudimentary photoshop skills:

Odysseus' time on the island seems still, but is quickly running out- what seems a paradise is undermined by his yearning for the future.  I chose a handwritten text because the content of the poem is so intimate, and I had an image of it as a sort of reverse-Dear-John letter from a soldier to his wife.

A meadow, reversed.  evokes the idea of the sea + vast space, as well as Louis Gluck's subversive reading of the The Odyssey.  I used the text to balance out the composition a little, though I think that the apostrophe and maybe the font I used weren't super successful.

I used an image of a Jason Taylor sculpture as my inspiration/base.  Meadowlands bridges a gap between mythic and modern, and so the underwater sculpture evokes a very iconic and artifact-like feeling-- it was also noted that the seaweed begins to resemble grass, rather than water, which I thought was an interesting image between this call to the sea and the recurring motif of meadows in the book.  The stone the sculpture is tied to refers to Ithaca, and Odysseus' ties/rejection of his homeland.

This is my final cover, though I actually like the first as well.  I took the same composition as before and shifted the elements to add additional texture- I didn't like the perfectly parallel conditions of the first, and I think this one is visually much more interesting.


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