Louise Gluck’s latest book explores the miraculous world of infants

When my daughter was an infant, the smallest and most insignificant things took on a lot of meaning. For a year or so, I was reminded of what it was like for your entire universe to be a little more than you can see with your eyes and hold in your hands. To focus completely on the people closest to you, and to be free from the weight of the past and the confusion of the future. To live in the present and appreciate the novelty and miraculous nature, frankly, of the things adults take for granted, from colors to feelings to how your facial muscles mold into a smile. And through the process of trying to explain the world to it, to learn about the arbitrary nature of the things we deal with every day – analog clocks and irregular verbs, for starters.

More than once I wondered if the intuitive solutions and methods I devised were more elegant than the “correct” methods I was trying to instill in them. I wanted nothing more than to understand what it was like to see the world the way I did, completely refreshing and for the first time. I wanted to know what was going on inside her head. And I still remember the day, shortly after she started speaking, when she tried to tell me exactly that. She put her head in her hands and through her sad teeth groaned, “I don’t have the right words!”

Louise Gluck's latest book
Louise Gluck’s latest book, “Marigold and Rose,” is available October 11. (Courtesy of Catherine Wolkoff and Macmillan Publishers)

But the Nobel Prize-winning poet Louise Gluck does. In her most recent work, a bit of prose gossip entitled “marigold and rose(October 11) she places herself in the minds of the titular twins as they experience the first year of their lives, examining their emerging personalities, their inner lives, and the poetic way they understand the world around them. Inspired by videos of her twin grandchildren in California during the pandemic Cambridge-based Glock quickly ditched this fantasy novel – her first after dozens of famous poems.

What started out as infographics trying to understand the behavior and interactions you saw on videos evolved into something cute and whimsical, to be shared with friends and family, and eventually, a more polished work meant for public consumption. Given this origin, the book is, of course, a bit of a resiliency on Glück’s part – a book that boasted of the novelty and weight of the publishing industry behind it. She could have easily come off as self-indulgent. But Gluck’s knack for finding beauty in simplicity, and her ability to evoke that sense of mystery and wonder that I remember when my daughter was that age, made reading “Marigold and Rose” fun.

Marigold and Rose cannot speak, but from the first sentence, Gluck imagines them as fully formed persons, with personalities, opinions, and desires that have no way of expressing themselves. “Everyone understood that Marigold lived in her head, and Rose lived in the world,” Gluck wrote. Marigold, a self-doubting introvert, is eager to absorb as much information about the world as possible for the book she plans to write one day. She can’t help but compare herself to Rose, who at a young age of just a few months already exudes an effortless grace that makes Marigold feel inadequate. But Rose herself envies Marigold’s perseverance and resourcefulness, and imagines that only as a pair they are truly complete.

Very little happened in “Marigold and Rose,” at least from an adult perspective. A house replaces an apartment. Garden planted. Their mother leaves them to go back to work, and soon thereafter decides to stay at home. They move around in a staircase. Grandmother dies. They have a birthday party. Between them they sleep, dream, play and think. They are watching with interest. They see their parents down to the smallest detail; They examine every nuance, every word, every movement. They understand who their parents are, on a basic level. This, to me, Glück notes particularly well in life – at this age kids see you much better than you see yourself, and sometimes the clearest picture of yourself you’ll get is when they start to reflect it back to you.

It’s hard to imagine a lighthearted and specific story like “Marigold and Rose” finding so much of an audience other than the two complementary Glück conventions, though it would be the perfect baby shower gift for parents interested in literature. Parents and grandparents often make the mistake of thinking their kids are great for everyone and no doubt some will see this book as just that kind of visual misunderstanding. But as someone who has experienced what Glock depicts firsthand, it would have been nice to have a way to go back in time, and relive that sense of modernity and amazement.

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